Anorak | Brazil’s Big And Bold Dam Project Is No Avatar Plot

Brazil’s Big And Bold Dam Project Is No Avatar Plot

by | 9th, May 2011

THE  Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River in Brazil, once complete, will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam complex, after China’s Three Gorges Dam and the Brazilian-Paraguayan Itaipu Dam.

The £7.5bn project, first initiated in 1975, is expected to provide electricity to 23 million homes and to create an estimated 41,000 jobs. According to Brazil’s Energy Research Company (EPE), “Belo Monte enables Brazil to meet two goals: to provide electric power to boost economic growth while at the same time avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases ”. Indeed, with a booming economy that grew 7.5% last year, Brazil is facing a soaring energy demand.

But the dam project has been marred by controversy from the outset. In recent years, a string of environmentalist groups and celebrities have launched campaigns against Belo Monte, saying it will ruin biodiversity and disrupt the livelihoods of indigenous populations.

At the end of last month , the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the Brazilian government to suspend the dam construction after receiving a petition from non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff responded by ordering an immediate cessation of relations with IACHR, suspending Brazil’s annual $800.000 contribution to the Human Rights body.

As with any large-scale development project, both local peoples and the environment will be affected. The Belo Monte dam will stretch along 3.75 miles in the state of Pará and, according to critics’ reports , it requires the clearing of 588 acres of Amazon jungle, the flooding of a 193-square mile area and the drying-up of a 62-mile stretch of the Xingu River. Moreover, 20,000 people will have to relocate, indigenous rights campaigners like Survival International say. However, other reports show that these are townspeople and that no tribes will be displaced.

Regardless, this prospective scenario has reminded some greens and international celebrities of Hollywood blockbusters, in which a popular theme in recent years has been to pit corporate baddies against defenceless populations in desperate need for some enlightened hero to come to their rescue. In the 2009 sci-fi movie Avatar , for instance, a profit-driven government seeks to expand its precious mineral mining endeavours to the lush, alien planet of Pandora. The Earthly government threatens the future of the Na’vi tribe, a humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. But soon a paraplegic war veteran falls in love with the native culture and takes on an environmental battle on their behalf.

When Avatar director James Cameron visited the indigenous communities in the Xingu river basin, accompanied once by Avatar co-stars Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore and another time by former action figure and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, reality came to follow fiction. After meeting with indigenous leaders, Cameron became the figurehead of an international campaign against Amazon destruction, claiming that a real-life Avatar confrontation is in progress by the Xingu river. Here, the Brazilian government has been cast in

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Posted: 9th, May 2011 | In: Key Posts Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink