Trouble at Brazil mega-dam stops construction for now

Nov 12, 2012
Aerial of an area in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in May 2012, that will be flooded by the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on the Xingu River. Work on Brazil's controversial $13 billion Belo Monte mega-dam ground to a halt Monday after protesters torched buildings at three dam construction sites over the weekend, the developer said.

Work on Brazil's controversial $13 billion Belo Monte mega-dam ground to a halt Monday after protesters torched buildings at three dam construction sites over the weekend, the developer said.

Saturday, "a group of 30 people set fire to prefab structures at the Pimental site. They went into the cafeteria, destroyed everything and robbed the till" before setting it ablaze, said Fernando Santana, spokesman for builders Consorcio Constructor Belo Monte (CCBM).

And late Sunday, groups of 20 people set structures ablaze at Canais and Diques, two other sites, said Santana.

"On Monday, as a precautionary security measure, all activities were suspended at the construction site," said Santana, suggesting that "vandals" might be trying to derail salary renegotiation under way.

The state-owned Norte Energia hired CCBM to build the dam, which is set to be the world's third largest when it has been completed. Between 12,000 and 13,000 workers at the site on two shifts, Santana said.

The incidents broke out after CCBM proposed a seven percent wage hike to the workers in an area where the inflation rate is at 30 percent, said Xingu Vivo, a non-governmental group opposing the dam.

On October 9 protesters—150 natives and local fishermen—interrupted dam construction, accusing Norte Energia of backtracking on accords signed in June when people occupied the Pimental area for three weeks.

fear the dam across the Xingu River, a tributary of the , will harm their way of life. Environmentalists have warned of deforestation, and to the ecosystem.

The dam is expected to flood some 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu and displace 16,000 people, according to the government, although some NGOs put the number at 40,000 displaced.

The natives want their lands demarcated and non-indigenous people removed from them, as well as a better and access to drinking water.

Expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of electricity, the dam would be the third biggest in the world, after China's Three Gorges facility and Brazil's Itaipu Dam in the south.

It is one of several hydroelectric projects billed by Brazil as providing clean energy for a fast-growing economy.

"Avatar" director James Cameron and actress Sigourney Weaver support dam opponents, drawing parallels with the natives-versus-exploiters storyline of their blockbuster Hollywood movie.

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Judge scraps Amazon dam hearing

Oct 15, 2012

A federal judge has suspended a planned hearing for fishermen and indigenous people occupying a disputed dam in Brazil's Amazon after they failed to vacate the site, developers said.

Brazil resumes work on major dam after protests

Oct 19, 2012

Work has resumed on the massive Belo Monte Dam in Brazil's Amazon after the public consortium reached a deal with indigenous groups and fishermen who had occupied one of its building sites.

Over 150 natives occupy Amazon dam construction site

Jun 27, 2012

More than 150 indigenous people are occupying one of the construction sites for the huge Belo Monte hydro-electric dam across the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon, a local spokesman said Tuesday.

Brazil judge says work can resume at Amazon dam

Dec 17, 2011

A judge in Brazil on Friday revoked his own order to halt work on a controversial $11 billion dam in the Amazon region, a project that has been criticized by environmentalists and native groups.

Brazil's Belo Monte dam better than alternatives: study

Dec 12, 2011

Brazil's Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the heart of the Amazon will have fewer environmental effects than fossil-fuel alternatives and will be cheaper than other renewable energy sources, state media said ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.