The Brazilian government has issued a 'partial' installation license allowing the Belo Monte Dam to break ground on the Amazon's Xingu River despite egregious disregard for human rights and environmental legislation, the unwavering protests of civil society and condemnations by its Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (MPF). The license was approved by Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA despite evidence that the dam-building consortium Norte Energia (NESA) has failed to comply with social and environmental conditions required for an installation license.
The ‘partial’ installation license, non-existent under Brazilian environmental legislation, will allow for NESA to open access roads and initiate forest clearing at dam construction sites encompassing 2,118 acres. 'By granting the license, IBAMA is attempting to make Belo Monte, an illegal and catastrophic dam project, into a fait accompli,' said Christian Poirier, Brazil Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch. 'The dam is an archaic and reckless way of meeting Brazil's energy needs when there are so many less harmful alternatives available.'
The USD17 billion Belo Monte Dam will divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. Its reservoirs will flood more than 120,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace more than 40,000 people and generate vast quantities of methane.
The decision follows the recent resignation of IBAMA's president Abelardo Bayma, who allegedly resigned over the project license amidst intense political pressures from the Ministry of Mines and Energy and President Dilma Rousseff.
According to Public Prosecutor Ubiratan Cazetta, 'IBAMA is putting the region at a high social and environmental risk by granting a license allowing installation of the construction site while not requiring compliance with legally-mandated safeguards. No effective preparations have been made to absorb the tens of thousands of migrants who will be attracted to the region in search of employment in dam construction.'
Fierce opposition by local inhabitants to Belo Monte has not wavered. 'Belo Monte's installation license is a sign of the government's deepening authoritarianism, as it continues to steamroll over environmental legislation and human rights,' said Antonia Melo, spokesperson for the Xingu Alive Forever Movement. 'The government seeks to build this dam at any cost to benefit corporate interests. We will not stop fighting to preserve the Xingu, our national patrimony.'