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

Rainforest at Risk

Activists Critical of Rousseff’s
Vetoes to Brazil’s New Forest Code

When the text of the new Brazilian Forest Code landed on President Dilma Rousseff’s desk last week, it had already traveled a serendipitous path through the country’s Congress, agricultural lobby, landowners and exporters, all in favor of easing regulations protecting the Amazon and other wild forests of Brazil.
But environmentalist groups immediately saw the risks it’d represent to the region and found no reason to praise the bill. It heavily favored the logging and timber industry, and would open the door to even more destruction of its natural resources. The bill also offered a generous amnesty to many of the companies directly linked to the record deforestation of the 1970s and 80s.
The president did veto most of the clauses related to that but sadly, it isn’t nearly enough. The government is yet to present its alternatives to the bill and resend it to Congress to another round of debate and vote. But the new code won’t have a resolution before Rio hosts a U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in late June, and that was the its intention all along, critics say.
In fact, grassroots organizations such as Web-based Avaaz, with the support of Greenpeace, WWF, Brazil’s Academy of Science and even the Catholic Church, had presented the president a petition with over two million signatures demanding a veto to the whole bill which, according Continue reading