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Brazil says anti-dam protests unjustified

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Rio De Janeiro (UPI) Apr 7, 2011
Brazil has rejected as unjustified international lobbying against the start of work on a giant Amazonian dam the country argues is vital for its future energy security.

From scattered small-scale protests the campaign against the massive Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon jungle state of Para, in northern Brazil, has grown into a global outcry. Brazil's angry rejoinders were sparked by interventions led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an organ of the Organization of American States.

The commission argued the damage would displace at least 50,000 people from indigenous Amazonian tribes and wreak havoc on plant and wildlife in the area.

Campaigners were joined by filmmaker James Cameron, director of "Titanic" and "Avatar"; singer Sting; and other Hollywood figures regularly involved with environmental issues.

Government officials don't contest the claims but argue the dam is for the greater good of a larger majority of Brazilians who will directly benefit from more widespread electrification, modernization of isolated and remote areas and ensure extended supplies of power to new industry expected to sprout in northern Brazil.

Construction of the dam is estimated to cost $17 billion.

The dam's opponents say Brazil can do without the new dam if it tries harder to ensure energy efficiency, avoid wastage and use alternative ways of power generation on a smaller scale.

The commission called for work on the construction to be deferred and greater attention given to the concerns of indigenous people in the area.

However, the Brazilian foreign ministry described the request by the commission as unjustified and premature.

It said in published comments that Brazil had acted in an "effective and diligent" manner to respond to demands by environmentalists and indigenous communities living in the Para state.

In addition, it said, the federal authorities had carried out the necessary impact reports on the area.

The IACHR argues more needs to be done. It asked the government to stop the dam's licensing process until due consultation with environmentalists and indigenous groups in the area was completed. The commission's comments followed a complaint filed in 2010 on behalf of the indigenous communities.

The 11,000-megawatt dam is set to be the third biggest in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Itaipu complex on the Parana River, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay.

The government argues the dam will create jobs and provide electricity to 23 million homes.

The dam project sparked bitter controversy before it received the go-ahead last year. After bidding was halted three times the state-owned Companhia Hidro-Eletrica do Sao Francisco received the contract and final go-ahead for construction.

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