4.1. “Damming Brazil.” E-Research: A Journal of Undergraduate Work, [xiv] “Belo Monte Dam: A Spearhead for Brazil’s Dam-Building Attack on the Amazon?”, [xv] “Belo Monte Dam: A Spearhead for Brazil’s Dam-Building Attack on the Amazon?”, [xvi] Brody, Thyra. “Stop the Belo Monte Monster Dam.” Accessed June 19, 2012. [xviii] When lobbying for the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe’s land, the son of the tribe’s former chief Valmir Gomes stated, “we’ve gone through many difficulties, and I can’t even walk in the cities because of the risks,” and “we need the demarcation so that we can freely walk on our own lands.”[xix]  Such statements underscore the indigenous’ need for land titles so they do not have to live in fear. Belo Monte’s Environmental Impact Study itself states, however, that it would take at least 15,000 m3/s for fish and other aquatic animals’ sites to be minimally flooded to allow for migration and breeding (“ piracema ”). Its first commercial generation is expected to come on stream in 2015. The project has been facing severe criticism regarding its inefficiency and anticipated impact on the environment. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. It says that water levels fell the previous day to a critical 95.2 metres, which posed a risk that waves “will reach areas of the dam not protected by rock” reinforcements. Approximately 500km² of land is expected to be flooded and thousands of people will be displaced. [viii] “Belo Monte: Brazil’s Damned Democracy.” Al Jazeera, May 17, 2012. The biggest hydroelectric project in the Amazon rainforest has a design flaw that poses a “very serious” threat to human life and globally important ecosystems, according to documents and expert testimony received by the Guardian. Planning for what was then named the . It … The government insists that they’re already taking into account all the social and environmental impacts surrounding the project. Environmentalists and scientists warned this would devastate one of the world’s most unique biodiversity hotspots. [xii] The statement, however, fails to accurately portray the negative impacts a flood would have on the region’s flora and fauna, which is critical to the Xingu natives’ survival, nor does it mention the spread of diseases or the fact that a large number of tribes would be left homeless. This will be the start of a new water management system that will prioritise the dam and the ecosystem on alternate years. [x] “Belo Monte: Brazil’s Damned Democracy.” Al Jazeera, May 17, 2012. The most notable example is the massive Belo Monte Dam, the world’s fourth-largest hydroelectric project. Upstream dams were not even considered by the government in its designs for Belo Monte,[xv] which is significant as upstream dams can cause permanent flooding. Accessed June 19, 2012. http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0323-fearnside_op-ed_belo_monte.html. Over 1,000 families were affected by the flooding but according to the Avás-Canoeiros people, fewer than 300 inhabitants were offered relocation and compensation entirely. When the full plant is completed, in 2019, it will generate a maximum 11 233 megawatts (MW) capacity. Norte Energia, S.A. ordered the military police to clear the area, which took place the following day. [v] Li, Wenhong, Fu Rong, Negron Juarez Robinson I., and Fernandes Katia. “This is a fault in the construction and the planning.”, She plans to send a formal request to the federal authorities in the coming days for immediate humanitarian assistance to affected residents and a suspension of the dam. The Belo Monte project has been beset with problems since its inception during the era of Brazil’s military dictatorship. “I’ve been fishing here for 35 years but all the fish have fled. In referencing the incident, an Al Jazeera article from May 17 notes that the Balbina hydroelectric plant “drowned fauna, flora and contaminated fresh water supplies, resulting in food and health problems.” The flood displaced eight Atroari indigenous villages along the Uatuma River, but only two of the Atroari villages were ever relocated. The sole reason behind the original draft for the Belo Monte Dam being shelved was the environmental impact it was going to have on its surroundings. The BR-319 Road, Belo Monte Dam and Juruti mine have large biological negative impact. Your support powers our independent journalism, Available for everyone, funded by readers. 25, 2012. http://www.bicusa.org/en/Project.6.aspx. In response, close to a thousand indigenous people from the Amazon region participated in a week long protest outside the Brazilian Congress to express their grievances regarding human rights violations, including the lack of consultation in the Belo Monte Dam project, especially concerning land titles. [ix], Experts anticipate that the Belo Monte Dam project will bring further detrimental effects to the Xingu inhabitants. However, construction of the dam has continued despite its serious backlash, mainly due to the influence of Brazil’s developing economy. [x] The Belo Monte Dam requires the excavation of two large canals, which will flood the surrounding forest area, thereby displacing fifty thousand Xingu Indians within the Altamira community. ... (Avatar), compared the plight of the Amazon indigenous people, in face of the approved construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian Amazon, to that of the movie Avatar. “It is already apparent this project is a mistake,” she said. “Stop the Belo Monte Monster Dam.” Accessed June 19, 2012. Prosecutors involved in the Car Wash corruption investigation found Belo Monte contractors were paid inflated fees in return for kickbacks to political parties. “Damming Brazil.” E-Research: A Journal of Undergraduate Work. What’s the true cost of Belo Monte Dam? To all of the Xingu natives, except the Kayapo and Suya tribes, the river signifies the “house of God,” which is now vulnerable to destruction with the arrival of the dam. Following two deadly tailings dam disasters in recent years at Brumadinho and Mariana, the uncertain situation has prompted experts to call on Brazilian authorities to increase monitoring of the dam, take remedial measures and clarify the magnitude of the risk to the public. In late February, a federal judge in Brazil suspended construction of the Belo Monte Dam, citing 29 unmet environmental and social conditions. [xxiii] As previously explained, the Brazilian government is going forth with the construction of the Belo Monte Dam to further its energy expansion, but according to the non-profit organization Amazon Watch, during the region’s dry season, the dam is only able to utilize 39 percent of its total capacity, resulting in the sure devastation of the Xingu natives’ lives, culture, and natural habitat at the hands of this energy-inefficient dam installation. [ii] However, the dam is charged with threatening the religion and culture of the Xingu Indians, or the set of beliefs that they deem essential to their civilization, and even worse, their very existence. “If I were living downstream of the dam, I would move upriver … It is absurd this was not foreseen.”. Last modified on Tue 8 Dec 2020 05.41 EST. The Belo Monte Dam project along the Xingu River had its preliminary plans drawn under Brazil’s military dictatorship and was a highly controversial environmental project from the onset. However, past offers of reimbursements by the government have failed to adequately compensate the indigenous for their losses. [xxiv] “Belo Monte Dam: A Spearhead for Brazil’s Dam-Building Attack on the Amazon?”, [xxv] “Belo Monte: Brazil’s Damned Democracy.” Al Jazeera, May 17, 2012. If allowed to proceed, Belo Monte will divert 80% of the flow of the Xingu River, flooding an area of 516 square kilometres in the Amazon basin, most of which is standing forest. Even under its best scenario, the volta grande will get less peak rainy season water than during the severe drought of 2016, which killed so many fish that locals refer to it as the “year of the end of the world.” . The studies suggest engineers failed to anticipate the impact of water shortages on the Pimental dam at Belo Monte, which has been closed and turned into a barrier. As well as increasing hunger and lower incomes, several said they suffered depression as a result of the sudden collapse of the riverscape they had grown up with. But international In this culture, water therefore both represents and facilitates social unity, an aspect of life that the government cannot replace through simple compensation. The Belo Monte Dam is being built in the state of Pará, Brazil. The new system “will turn the river into a cemetery”, said Cristiane Costa, a biologist working in the office of the public prosecutor. “Observed. The Belo Monte dam project defies constitutional and international policies, and will have devastating, permanent social and environmental consequences. “Damming Brazil.” E-Research: A Journal of Undergraduate Work, [xvii] “Belo Monte Dam: A Spearhead for Brazil’s Dam-Building Attack on the Amazon?”, [xviii] “Belo Monte: Brazil’s Damned Democracy.” Al Jazeera, May 17, 2012. [vi] “Belo Monte Dam: A Spearhead for Brazil’s Dam-Building Attack on the Amazon?”. Accessed, [xix] Sibaja, Marco. “The structural risks are a surprise.”. On the exposed rocks are two dead acari fish that appear to have been trapped, desiccated and had their guts ripped out by vultures. Brazil’s 2011-2020 energy-expansion plan is decisively dependent upon output from Brazil’s large hydroelectric dams, and the Belo Monte Dam is projected to bring about a 22 million home surplus once the Brazilian government completes the project. [xiii], The Brazilian government tried justifying the harmful impacts of the Belo Monte Dam with compensation and resettlement for the Xingu natives. Critics are of the opinion that the plant will be highly inefficient and generate only 10% of its capacity during the low-water season in the region. [xi] Government officials have legitimized the dam’s construction by claiming that upon the completion of the project the natives will have plenty of fishing as well as more than enough water that is required for traveling along the Xingu River. “That there is already a shortage of water calls into question the entire viability of Belo Monte hydroelectric project,” Thais Santi, the public prosecutor for Altamira, said. This is forcing the operators to choose between a structural weakening of the 14km-wide compacted-earth barrier and a reallocation of water in the reservoir or on the Xingu river, which is home to indigenous communities, fishing villages and some of the world’s most endangered species. Between June 15 and June 23 of 2012, the People’s Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro with 15,000 people in attendance, including many indigenous groups that engaged in various forms of performance art to express themselves. Belo Monte Dam: Electricity or Life in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest The main plant of the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant has a capacity of 11,000 megawatts, to which 233 more megawatts are added from the secondary plant. She considers this a case of ecocide. The report says the problem arose as a result of unusually low water flows into the reservoir, with several days in early October when it dropped to 750 cubic metres a second. Threats to the Xingu Indians mount as the government attempts to continue construction on the Belo Monte Dam project through investment programs such as Brasil em Acão and the Program to Accelerate Growth. The Belo Monte Dam project along the Xingu River had its preliminary plans drawn under Brazil’s military dictatorship and was a highly controversial environmental project from the onset. The symbolic ritual of exchanging water between tribes for the indigenous people denotes a communal relationship and the interconnectedness of the earth, water, and mankind. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is reportedly planning to attend the completion ceremony for Belo Monte, has weakened protections for the environment and indigenous communities. “Stop the Belo Monte Monster Dam.” Accessed June 19, 2012. http://amazonwatch.org/work/belo-monte-dam. The Guardian and El País have seen a recent report by Norte Energia which warned that the fall in water levels in recent weeks has exposed a vulnerable section of the Pimental dam wall, which is separate from the barrier housing most of the turbines, to waves that sometimes form during tropical storms or strong winds blowing across the reservoir. [xvi] However, in 2005 the government began demonstrating less consideration for the people of Xingu when the senate abruptly approved the Belo Monte Dam “under an ‘urgent, super-urgent’ regime.” This decision did not include the prior consultation of the Xingu Indians as required by the Brazilian constitution.[xvii]. The Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS-ICHB) claimed that the insufficient examination and repayment schemes violate the international accords, an agreement to which Brazil is a signatory. “People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice in Defense of the Commons.” Accessed June 19, 2012. http://rio20.net/en/events/peoples-summit-for-social-and-environmental-justice/, [xxi] The Associated Press. To date, the government has not addressed any of those conditions. Two hundred representatives of the Mebegokre Kayapó Indians met for five days to discuss the Belo Monte dam and four other dams which will devastate their lands. All rights reserved. Environmental impact assessment and the Belo Monte hydroelectric project. [vii], The Belo Monte Dam follows similar projects with correspondingly negative implications for indigenous communities in Brazil. [xiv], Brazil’s 1988 constitution initially required congressional approval of any dams threatening indigenous land, which necessitated changes in the original designs of Belo Monte to avoid flooding the Xingu natives’ reserves. However, in the Belo Monte Dam “most of the river’s flow will be detoured from the main reservoir through a series of canals interlinking five dammed tributary streams, leaving the ‘Big Bend’ of the Xingu River below the dam with only a tiny fraction of its normal annual flow.”[vi] As a result, the Juruna and Arara indigenous tribes that live nearby in the Paquicamba and Arara regions, located near the ‘Big Bend,’ will encounter extreme difficulty in finding clean water sources. Now it appears the dam may not be able to produce the electricity totals promised by its builders — an eventuality critics had long warned about. [ix] Bank Information Center. “Everything is getting worse,” said Sarah Rodrigues de Lima. His concerns were echoed by Francisco del Moral Hernandez, an energy science specialist who coordinated an expert panel on Belo Monte in 2009. “We’ve always known this project is inefficient from the standpoint of power generation. “Stop the Belo Monte Monster Dam.” Accessed June 19, 2012. In the short term, the authorities face the dilemma of whether to accept the possible erosion of the dam wall or a further decline in water quality. [v] This can be expected to affect the natives’ economies and their ability to survive. Accessed June 19, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/brazils-indigeneous-awa-tribe_n_1574374.html, [xx] Rio+20 Portal. Change of the Standardized Precipitation Index, its Potential Cause and Implications to Future Climate Change in the Amazon Region.” The Royal Society 363. Economists questioned the viability of a scheme paid for with pension funds and tax revenues, but which is designed to run at only 40% of its 11,200MW capacity. [viii], In a comparable case during April of 2002, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) financed the Cana Brava dam on the Tocantinus River in the Amazon that flooded the region inherited by the Avás-Canoeiros indigenous population. Kayapó dance at an anti-dam protest, Piaraçu, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2006. Construction of the Belo Monte Dam began in January 2012. 1498 (2008): 1767-1772. “Alternative voices from Rio+20.” Al Jazeera, June 23, 2012. [xxi] According to an Al Jazeera article published on June 22, a young delegate from Canada representing the Indigenous Environmental Network named Ta’Kaiya who attended the People’s Summit said, “the development – the drilling, mining and damming – is affecting everyone, our communities and the Earth, our home and the only planet we have.”[xxii]. Environmental activists believe that the project will damage the rainforest and threaten the survival of local tribes. The Brazilian government is constructing the Belo Monte mega-dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon. The proposed Belo Monte Dam, on Brazils Xingu River (a north-flowing tributary to the Amazon in the State of Para´; see Figure 1) is the focus of intense controversy due to the magnitude and nature of its impacts. "The ruling that Belo Monte should conduct a new Environmental Impact Assessment is directly connected with the disastrous flooding of the Madeira River," said Pontes. Monga Bay, March 23, 2012. Environmental Impact Studies for the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam is a collection of analyses signed by 28 researchers, part of a group of 42 researchers from various Brazilian universities and research institutions, and some abroad. 160 DA Cunha, LV Ferreira: Impacts from the Belo Monte Hydroelectric construction support to planning and conservation actions that can reduce the environmental impacts of … A video depicting the Drop of Water Movement was posted online on November 16, 2011, in attempts to involve more Brazilian citizens in the construction plans of the Belo Monte Dam. [iii] Brody, Thyra. The Belo Monte Dam (AHE Belo Monte) is a complex of three dams, numerous dykes and a series of canals in order to supply two different power stations with water. Usually the main powerhouse of dams is placed at the base, allowing the water to come out of the turbines and follow in a path down to the river. When we reach the Boca da Terra Preta waterfall, it is no longer navigable. and Brasil Novo municipalities of the Brazilian state of Para Accessed June 19, 2012. http://journals.chapman.edu/ojs/index.php/e-Research/article/view/308/602. Operator faces choice of weakening 14km barrier or potentially devastating a biodiversity hotspot, Fri 8 Nov 2019 11.00 EST Doi: 10.1098/rstb.2007.0022. The answer is that no one yet knows. The Belo Monte Dam has become notorious for the threat it poses to indigenous peoples through 3 Belo Monte is a keystone project … They also intend to appeal to the Brazilian government for emergency humanitarian aid to support riverine populations that have experienced a devastating decline of fish on which they depend for nutrition and income. [xx] A number of attendees expressed the indigenous groups’ frustrations at the controversial construction of government-backed dams. “Cana Brava Hydroelectric Project.” Last modified June. Locals explain how the waterway is narrowing and becoming shallower. [ii] Brody, Thyra. The Pimental Dam on the Xingu would be 36 metres (118 ft) tall and 6,248 metres (20,499 ft) long and have a structural volume of 4,768,000 cubic metres (168,400,000 t would create the Calha Do Xingu Reservoir … Hernandez and Sawakuchi said planners had been over-optimistic because historical data showed the Xingu river was lower on at least four occasions during the 50 years before construction started. The 11 October document – Urgent action to control the level of the Belo Monte HPP Xingu Reservoir - is signed by Norte Energia’s CEO and addressed to the head of the national water agency. “As details of the corruption scandal have unfolded, the motivations underlying such reckless decisions have become abundantly clear, as well as their tragic consequences,” said Brent Millikan of International Rivers. The complex cost twice the initial budget, equivalent to more than 10 billion dollars when it was built. They will ultimately suffer from a deficiency of food and the spread of diseases due to the lack of water. Indigenous and riverine communities allied to oppose the dam system, which blocks one of the Amazon’s biggest tributaries with 2.1m tonnes of concrete and 79.2m cubic metres of earth. Accessed. "The hasty and incomplete studies [to build dams on the] Madeira caused serious damage to the population just as with Belo Monte, and it may also impair the production of energy." [xxiv] Amazon Watch has suggested “retrofitting existing hydroelectric infrastructure” as a sustainable alternative to the Belo Monte Dam, a prospect that would be both energy efficient and non-threatening to the Xingu Indians. This is substantially below the minimum of 1,000 cubic metres a second that planning documents say is needed to guarantee water quality in the reservoirs and sufficient downstream discharge to ensure a healthy ecosystem, including for a turtle refuge, and indigenous and riverine communities’ navigation. [xxiii] Amazon Watch. Those standing against Belo Monte have highlighted its social and environmental impacts. What we did not imagine is the weakness of the civil engineering,” he said. The case of Belo Monte and the five additional dams planned upstream (including the Altamira/Babaquara Dam) indicate the need for Brazil to reform its environmental assessment and licensing system to include the impacts of multiple interdependent projects. Additionally, two indigenous groups currently reside alongside the dam and its central powerhouse, an area known as “the dry stretch,” but the government’s environmental study failed to identify their reserves as “directly impacted,” thus negating the groups’ rights to consultation and compensation. Accessed. [iv] The drought will severely inhibit agricultural practices, as severe droughts can be expected to augment the flammability of forests and thus increase the risk of losing crops and livestock. The government might start improve the efficiency of pre-existing dams by “[reducing] the startling amount of energy lost during transmission, [replacing] energy-inefficient household products, and [updating] old and dialing generators.”[xxv] Retrofitting the Belo Monte Dam would be a worthy alternative and may ultimately prove critical to the survival of the Xingu natives. However, construction of the dam has continued despite its serious backlash, mainly due to the influence of Brazil’s developing economy. [xii] “Belo Monte: Brazil’s Damned Democracy.” Al Jazeera, May 17, 2012. The project developer has yet to negotiate compensation and relocation with the people in a transparent way. There is already insufficient food in this area.”. On October 27, 2011, the Belo Monte Dam construction site was occupied by 400 indigenous people, fishermen and riverine community members. Accessed June 24, 2012. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/06/2012622175745190650.html. Accessed, [xiii] Brody, Thyra. It asks permission for more water from the intermediate reservoir, a move which would put more pressure on an already strained hydrology. From climate change to biodiversity loss - documenting human impacts on the environment. Other CABI sites. The studies suggest engineers failed to anticipate the impact of water shortages on the Pimental dam at Belo Monte, which has been closed and turned into a barrier. An official estimate shows that 19,242 people will be displaced by Belo Monte, with a further 100,000 people living in the area being directly impacted by … [xi] Amazon Watch. On the river bank, sarao trees – which usually provide food for the abundant pacu fish are now so far back that their fruit no longer falls in the water. June19,2012.http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/2012515144822206262.html. 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According to some estimates the Belo Monte Dam would potentially displace 16,000 natives from their ancestral grounds and endanger 1000 reptile, bird and fish species [3]. Norte Energia said in a statement that it “strictly complies” with the conditions of its environmental license. Environmental Impact. On a small island in the river, more than 50 locals arrived by boat last week to testify to the problems caused by the dam. One analyst said there was risk of a rupture, and even before the report was issued federal prosecutors were preparing to call for the project to be suspended. The controversial Belo Monte mega-dam in Pará state has done significant socio environmental harm to the Xingu River and the indigenous and traditional people living beside it. ” the Huffington Post, June 21, 2012 … the government, however, construction of Amazon. Boca da Terra Preta waterfall, it will result in the Car Wash corruption investigation found Belo Monster. 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