Damned Project

Judge Sets Back Push to Halt
Newest Power Plant in Brazil

Brazil’s energy needs have pit the administration of President Dilma Rousseff against environmentalists and indigenous populations. Smack in the middle of this struggle sits the estimated $13 billion Monte Belo project, which is to become the world’s third largest dam.
The dispute has had its share of victories for each side, and the latest ruling, by a Supreme Court judge, has gone the government’s way, as it allowed the controversial project to resume construction. That may be far from settling the matter, however, as even Hollywood celebrities have joined in the fray.
The vision of Brazil as a self-reliant energy powerhouse has been a national theme even before it restored its democratic rule in the 1980s. To take advantage of an abundance of river basins to meet growing consumption needs has been an integral component of every president’s agenda ever since.
But most of this vision implies the construction of mega dams in areas surrounding the Amazon, and the impact on the environment and indigenous communities could be damaging and irreversible. Instead, critics say, Brazil should build a series of smaller and less costly projects, that wouldn’t be so disruptive.
Behind the apparent clash of two different views about how Brazil should tackle its energy needs, there’s also the charge, commonly leveled against the Rousseff administration, of playing favors with Brazil’s cultural and geographic differences. While the wealthier south usually sees its energy demands met, vast extensions of the north remain underserved and lawless.
This time around, what particularly distinguishes the dispute over Belo Monte is the reenergized activism of native Brazilians, the Continue reading