“Belo Monte became a priority for the previous government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who contended that the plant was critical to Brazil’s future energy needs. His successor, President Dilma Rousseff, has remained committed to the project.
The license was granted by the environmental agency after “robust technical analysis,” the government said in a news release. The North Energy consortium will pay $1.9 billion for “social-environmental measures,” to help people affected by the dam’s construction and to offset environmental effects, an agency spokeswoman said. The government itself has committed $314 million, she said.
Conservationists have become increasingly critical of Brazil’s efforts to protect the Amazon rain forest. Brazil’s deforestation numbers increased sharply over the past nine months, and the lower house of Congress last week approved a revision of the Forest Code that would open up protected areas to deforestation while granting amnesty to agribusiness developers for previous forest-clearing. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.
“The government has an important choice – to go back to a future of wasteful publicly funded mega-projects and frontier chaos, or ahead, to the future of a sustainable and equitable green economy leader, with rule of law, good governance and a secure natural and investment environment,” said Stephan Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund.
The $17 billion dam, which is expected to start producing electricity in 2015, would divert the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch in Pará State. Environmental groups say it will flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and settlements, displacing 20,000 to 40,000 people and releasing large quantities of methane. The Ibama spokeswoman put the number of displaced people at 20,000 but insisted that no indigenous people would be removed from their lands.”
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