Brazil: Amazon dam moves forward


A deforested area along the border of the Xingu River, in the region where the Belo Monte dam is due to be built, Feb. 19, 2005.

Construction can now resume on the massive Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the eastern Amazon after a Brazilian appeals court on Thursday overturned an earlier ruling blocking the project, Globo News reports.

Yesterday’s decision by Brazil’s First Regional Federal Tribunal reverses a Feb. 26 ruling by a judge in the state of Para. The Para judge had said the environmental agency approving the project, IBAMA, failed to meet its own standards when it issued a permit that allowed contractors to begin clearing trees on the site.

The prosecutor and the plaintiff opposing the dam have said they will keep fighting, and vowed to appeal the Federal Tribunal’s decision.

Slated to be built on a forested Amazon tributary known as the Xingu River, Belo Monte would be the third-largest dam on earth. The government says Belo Monte is key to meeting Brazil's surging energy demands, but the project has drawn harsh criticism both domestically and abroad. Environmentalists say it’ll unduly harm the forest and its indigenous inhabitants, and celebrities like Sigourney Weaver and “Avatar” director James Cameron have joined the cause. We also reported recently that some scientists and economists familiar with the project say the dam is likely to deliver significantly less electricity than advertised, at a significantly higher price.