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Brazil dam go-ahead sparks anger

by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) Jan 27, 2011
Environmentalists and indigenous people Thursday defiantly rejected the Brazilian government's decision allowing work to begin on a giant hydroelectric dam, while the state prosecutor filed an appeal to suspend the ruling.

Brazil's environmental agency on Wednesday approved "necessary infrastructure" for the controversial $15-billion Belo Monte dam, which would become the third-largest in the world.

The ruling authorizes Norte Energia to clear almost 600 acres of forest and build roads to the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River in the northeast Brazilian state of Para.

Sixty civic groups and non-governmental organizations representing everyone from environmentalists to local peasants have formed a coalition called "Xingu Lives Forever."

The coalition, in a statement, called the government's ruling a "dictatorial act," adding that they were "going to continue opposing this project with all our might.

The dam's opponents, supported by the likes of Hollywood film director James Cameron, argue that it's "not economically viable" and will displace 16,000 people because of the planned flooding on the banks of the Xingu River.

State prosecutor Felicio Pontes filed an appeal, arguing that agreed-upon conditions have not been met, particularly concerning the rehabilitation of degraded zones.

"Due to decisions like this, we can say today, (the environmental agency) is the author of the worst offense against the environment in the Amazon," Pontes said.

The federal government says Belo Monte is vital to the economic development of the country. It has said that no native land is threatened and that it is spending millions of dollars to offset the social and environmental impacts of the dam.

earlier related report
Brazil gives go-ahead to controversial dam
Brasilia, Brazil (UPI) Jan 27, 2011 - Brazilian government environmental officials say they have approved construction of a giant hydroelectric dam project on an Amazon River tributary.

Contracts for the Belo Monte dam, which would be the third largest dam in the world, were signed in August 2010 amid widespread protests by environmentalists, the BBC reported Thursday. Brazil's Ibama environmental agency Wednesday gave approval for 588 acres of land to be cleared, although further legal challenges to the project are expected, the BBC said.

The government says the dam is crucial for development and will create jobs but environmental groups say the 3.7-mile long dam will threaten the survival of indigenous groups and could make as many as 50,000 people homeless when as much as 190 square miles of land are flooded.

The 11,000-megawatt Belo Monte dam -- expected to cost between $11 billion and $17 billion to build, and to provide electricity to 23 million homes -- would be the third-largest dam in the world after the Three Gorges dam in China and the Itaipu dam on the Parana River on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, which jointly operate it.

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