Monday, August 30, 2010


The Government of Brazil is forging ahead with plans to build the Belo Monte on the Xingu River in the central Amazon Basin despite serious engineering questions and difficulties with financing and James Cameron's Avatar campaign to assist the struggles of the real life avatars on earth.

Beyond the particular facts that dam would flood 500 square kilometers of pristine rainforest, relocate 12,000 people and negatively impact 45,000 indigenous people who depend on the river, Belo Monte raises in high profile the over-the-top massive development plans slated for the entire Amazon Basin which is home to greatest rainforest in the world.

Currently five nations -- Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru -- are planning over 146 big dams in the Amazon Basin. Some of these dams would flood pristine rainforests, others threaten indigenous people, and all would change the Amazonian ecosystem.

A new website developed by US NGO International Rivers and Argentine NGO Fundacion PROTEGER, with funding by ECOA from Brazil outlines the sites and impacts of these dams with an interactive map. Read more about it at Mongabay.

Most politicians and their constituencies take the view that hydroelectric development is both necessary and desirable. The typical "stump speech" runs like this: "Economic development is necessary to lift people out of poverty. Economic development requires energy. The the vast unharnessed rivers of Amazonia provide the clean and comparatively inexpensive source of energy that will bring a better life for everyone."

It doesn't seem to matter that, in fact, not everyone's life will be made better. Indeed, some will lose their way of life. And it doesn't seem to matter that hydro-power is nowhere as "clean" as represented due to the methane gases generated and the land-use changes that are triggered as not only water but new people flood into the area. Finally, it doesn't seem to matter that the dream of a vast network of water-driven energy is arriving to the Amazon basin at the same time as global-warming-driven droughts and fires are also arriving. It doesn't seem to matter unless something changes... and that something just might be us.

Want to get involved? Both Amazon Watch and International Rivers have strong citizen campaigns. Follow the links and learn how you can help the real life avatars.

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