Brazil: judge blocks construction of Belo Monte dam

A Brazilian judge ruled in favor of local indigenous groups Feb. 28, blocking President Dilma Rousseff’s plans to move ahead with construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon rainforest. Federal Judge Ronaldo Desterro in Para state also ordered the national development bank, BNDES, not to fund the project. In his ruling, Judge Desterro found that the project had received insufficient review from IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, with many potential impacts ignored.

The $17 billion project on the Xingu River has met fierce opposition from environmental groups and indigenous peoples in the region. But Maurício Tolmasquim, president of the Brazil’s public Energy Research Company (EPE), said before the ruling that the only opposition is from a “small minority that does not accept any form of hydroelectric power.”

The government argued that a ruling against construction of the dam would cause the loss of hundreds of jobs and slow Brazil’s development plans. If the 11,000-megawatt dam is built, it would be the world’s third largest after China’s Three Gorges and Itaipú, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay. (International Water Power & Dam Construction, AHN, Feb. 28; The Guardian, Feb. 18)

See our last posts Brazil, the Amazon and regional struggles for control of water.

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