by Emily Kirkland
April 26, 2010
Belo Monte threatens a beautiful region virtually untouched by development. The dam itself will have a tremendous negative impact on the biodiversity and natural communities of the area. Just as importantly, it will pave the way for further industrial growth. As a result, it imperils even greater quantities of forest than the 50,000 hectares directly affected.
This dam also carries an enormous human cost. 40,000 people live in the area that will be flooded. Indigenous peoples will be particularly affected. The Juruna and Arara people, for instance, live along the famous Big Bend in the Xingu River, which will effectively disappear once the Xingu is diverted. It is unclear how the indigenous people who currently live along its banks and fish in its waters will survive.
Sergio Leitao, a campaigner for Greenpeace Brazil, recently said that the dam represents a step into backwardness for Brazil. As he explained, this project follows a maxim long ago proven to be flawed: cheap energy at all costs. The energy produced by the dam could easily by generated by a wind-power installation of similar size, for a slightly higher cost, without any of the environmental or social impacts. Sergio is not the only one to recognize the flawed thinking at work here. James Cameron, the director of Avatar, who has ben campaigning against Belo Monte, said recently that it reminded him of a real-life version of that movie.
The destruction of the wilderness and the marginalization of the indigenous by the forces of greedwouldnt it be nice if these things happened only in movies? The unforuntate truth, of course, is that James Cameron is right: This is like a real-life Avatar, no 3-D glasses required. Thats why were commited to stopping this project from going forward, whatever it takesand even if what it takes is three more tons of steaming cow manure.