Native Amazonians

Photo Essay - Brazil hydro

The world's thirst for electricity remains unquenched, and Brazil has plans for an ambitious hydroelectric project. However, the damage caused will be substantial.

Hydroelectric dams are consistently promoted as a climate-friendly solution to meeting growing energy needs. However, studies indicate that large dams, especially in tropical environments, produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases.

The Brazilian government intends to build more than 60 large dams in the Amazon basin over the next 20 years to supply its electric grid. In addition to incalculable social impacts large dams in the Amazon threaten the biological integrity of river basin eco systems with vast artificial reservoirs while intensifying pressure upon surrounding areas with deforestation and other forms of unsustainable resource extraction.

  1. Mega-dam plans in the Xingu, Madeira and Tapaj's river basins – including the controversial Belo Monte Dam – and the Madeira Dam Complex and six dam projects including the Pakitzapango Dam in the Peruvian Amazon threaten communities, many of which have been living in the forests for thousands of years.
  2. Located on the Pelotas River between Anita Garibaldi and Pinhal de Serra the Barre Grande Dam began construction in 2001 and began generating electricity in late 2005. It consists of three units, each capable of generating 236MW.
  3. According to Ruth Buendia Mestoquiari, president of Central Asháninka Del Rio Ene, Peru, the Brazilian government is exporting a false development model. 'By pressuring the Peruvian government to build dams on our lands and using its development bank and its companies to implement these projects will only bring more poverty, not development. The Brazilian Development Bank is financing projects that are deeply affecting the peace of my community. They are not worried that these projects will force my people from their land and end our way of life.'
  4. One of the first projects in line for Peru is the Pakitzapango Dam. Ten Ashaninka communities with close to 10,000 people living on the Ene River would be displaced according to the Rainforest Alliance.
  5. The health of the river is crucial to the Ashaninka indigenous people who depend on the fish resources, the fertile soils of its flood plains and the many foods and products in the surrounding forest.
  6. In Brazil the government is planning to build the Belo Monte Dam on one of the Amazon's main tributaries, the Xingu. The Xingu River basin is home to 25,000 indigenous people from 40 ethnic groups.
  7. The Belo Monte Dam would affect communities living along what is known as the Xingu Big Bend. Officially 19,000 people would be forcibly displaced, although independent estimates place that figure considerably higher.

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