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Brazil awards dam tender despite environmental protests

Cable thieves jeopardize Congo dam project: official
Brazzaville (AFP) April 20, 2010 - Thieves have stolen almost 800 metres of high-tension electric cable from Congo's biggest hydroelectric dam, threatening the start-up of the project, its coordinator said Tuesday. The cable was suspended from pylons each 24 metres (78 feet) high, between Tselampo and Mont Banier, in the northwest suburbs of Brazzaville, when it was stolen before the weekend, Leon Armand Ibovi, who manages the Imboulou dam project, told AFP after a visit to the site.

The theft "could delay the arrival in Brazzaville of electricity generated by the dam," Ibovi added. "We're going to order more cables to avoid affecting the northern part of the country." "The way in which the thieves went about the job shows that they were professionals," he said, adding that a police hunt for the robbers was under way. At a global cost of 280 million dollars (208 million euros), 85 percent of which was financed by China, the Imboulou has been under construction since 2003 on the Lefini river, more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Brazzaville.

The dam is the biggest project of its kind in the Republic of Congo. Once it is onstream, it will have a capacity of 120 megawatts, which will be enough to supply the capital and a large part of the north of the country, according to officials working on the project. These officials hope that power from the dam will be available in time for the festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the Congo's independence from France, which will be celebrated on August 15.
by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) April 20, 2010
Brazil on Tuesday speedily awarded the tender for a controversial hydro-electric dam projected to be the world's third-largest, despite fierce opposition from environmentalists.

The government pushed ahead with the bidding process to begin construction of the giant Belo Monte dam after beating back a last-minute suspension order with a rushed appeal.

The tender was awarded to Norte Energia, a consortium led by a subsidiary of the state electricity company Electrobras, after a series of court injunctions that had blocked and unblocked the auction process.

Indigenous groups and environmental activists had earlier staged demonstrations decrying the dam as ecologically irresponsible and a threat to the livelihood of 12,000 families, most of them Brazilian Indians living on the banks of the Xingu river that would feed the facility.

"We, the indigenous, demand justice and respect," read one placard brandished by protesters in front of the National Electric Energy Agency in Brasilia, where the tender process was held.

Around 500 activists with Greenpeace dumped three tons of manure in front of the building.

"There are other possible energy sources, such as wind power, biomass or solar," a Greenpeace spokesman said.

Opponents of the construction said they would not be defeated by the awarding of the tender.

"We will not be discouraged, we will continue to demonstrate," said Renata Pinheiro of the Xingu Vivo movement.

They said they planned to occupy some of the 500 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest land that Greenpeace estimates would be flooded by the dam.

The environmental group has said the construction would also divert some 100 kilometers of the Xingu River in an area that is home to between 20,000 to 30,000 families.

The dam has become spectacularly controversial, with even "Avatar" director James Cameron and star Sigourney Weaver wading in recently to give their backing to opponents and drawing parallels with the natives-versus-exploiters storyline of their blockbuster Hollywood movie.

The regional justice ministry in the state of Para tried to stall tenders for the 10-billion-dollar-plus Belo Monte project in a ruling, calling the dam "an affront to environmental laws."

It said too many questions remained over how the massive project would affect flora and fauna in the region, and what would become of the families who would have to be relocated.

The government, though, appears determined to push through with the dam, calling it essential to its plan to boost energy production in Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy, nearly three-fold over the next two decades.

For construction costs of 11.2 billion dollars, Belo Monte is expected to be able to produce 11,000 megawatts, which could supply 20 million homes with power.

The dam would be the third-biggest in the world, after China's Three Gorges facility, and Brazil's Itaipu dam in the south, and has been defended by some in the local population who hope to benefit from the estimated 18,000 direct jobs and 80,000 indirect jobs that the government says the project will create.

Hydro-electric energy accounts for 73 percent of the energy produced by Brazil.


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British Columbia to go ahead with multi-billion-dollar dam
Vancouver (AFP) April 19, 2010
A controversial 6.6 billion Canadian dollar (5.9 billion US dollar) energy project will go ahead in northern British Columbia, provincial officials announced Monday. The Site C dam has yet to pass independent environmental assessments, but if construction is on schedule the 900 megawatt dam on the Peace River would start powering some 410,000 homes in 2020. The dam would flood about 83 s ... read more

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