View Full Version : Dam!

04-17-2010, 11:09 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/17/world/americas/17brazil.html?hpwAmazon Dam Project Pits Economic Benefit Against Protection of Indigenous Lands (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/17/world/americas/17brazil.html?hpw)

Not only indigenous lands, but some of the highest riverine biodiversity in the Amazon, and one of the basin's most beautiful rivers.

I started my life in environmental protection as a young activist trying to get the Assurini Indians to become aware that their world was about to go underwater along with hundreds of miles of islands, beaches, rapids, and flooded forest of the lower Xingú. This was in the late 1980s, when I lived in northern Brazil. I moved on, others moved in, the "southern" NGOs picked it up, the controversy grew, an Assurini famously waved his machete under the throat of the president of Eletronorte on national TV, and the original dam was scrapped.

This is a much reduced version they are going ahead with. The Assurini lands will not be flooded, nor will two-thirds of what originally would. But it might be the thin edge of the wedge to turn the Xingu into a string of dams.

That's one reason why I like the Araguaia. It cannot be dammed.

04-17-2010, 04:58 PM
The loss of wilderness begins with concrete curbing. It's a process I call death by a thousand cuts.

04-18-2010, 07:09 AM
Well, no interest at all from the northern hemisphere. I am out of here too.

George Jung
04-18-2010, 02:09 PM
Please don't confuse ignorance with apathy; I suspect most here know nothing about this, but can only extrapolate from what we've seen happen in this country, and what we hear of, elsewhere. The recent efforts to dam (? river) in China, and the attendant environmental loss, was a real eye-opener (and is an occurrence on a scale too daunting to even flirt with questions of how we might positively impact such a decision).
So in reading your opening statement, my thoughts were 'I wonder how George. is going to flesh out this discussion' because, I don't know the geography of your country well, and I'm unsure how the populace will address this. It's seemingly always a tradeoff between pristine wilderness and development, clothed in the veneer of 'progress' and improved standards of living.

PT Commander
04-18-2010, 02:19 PM
Yea curbs...dang..and then comes sidewalks and nice homes. Heck and I always wanted to live like my great great grandfather...candles...paddling to work in my john boat...hunting for din din...dang progress made life so bad. Then came electricity and computers....gee isn't that the thing you are ranting on right now.

Bruce Hooke
04-18-2010, 02:26 PM
To build Belo Monte, builders would have to excavate two huge channels larger than the Panama Canal to divert water from the main dam to the power plant. The reservoir would flood more than 160 square miles of forest while drying up a 60-mile stretch of the Xingu River, displacing more than 20,000 people, many from indigenous communities, according to non-governmental groups citing government figures.

Government planners have revised the plant’s design several times to try to reduce its environmental impact. But before his decision was overturned, Judge Antônio Carlos de Almeida Campelo ruled Wednesday that Congress would have to pass a law changing the Constitution’s limits on building dams that negatively affect indigenous communities.

The project has also drawn a storm of criticism from advocates and celebrities, including James Cameron. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/world/americas/11brazil.html)

Studies by nongovernmental groups have shown that the plant would be inefficient, producing less than 30 percent of its capacity during the dry season and an average of 39 percent annually. Environmentalists fear the government would need to construct other dams upstream to guarantee enough water — dams that would flood more forest and affect yet more indigenous peoples.

Eletronorte, the government utility directing the Belo Monte project, has denied that more dams would be necessary, saying Belo Monte would be part of the national electric grid and draw capacity from other pre-existing dams when necessary.

For indigenous groups, the drying out of the Xingu would change life as they know it. So at their meeting last month, leaders from 13 tribes made an unusual decision: They decided to create a new tribe of about 2,500, and then station it directly on the construction site, occupying it for years, if need be.

“If we lose this river we have no idea what will happen to us,” the chief said. “The river provides us with fish and food. How will we eat if we no longer have fish? And how will we ever leave here if we no longer have the river to travel on?”

Sounds like a pretty questionable idea to me.

The only plus I see in this is the by no means small point that hydropower does not put lots of CO2 into the atmosphere. However, in doing that math we should account for the lost CO2 storage capacity of all that drowned forest.

George Jung
04-18-2010, 02:28 PM
No. Wrong thread. Yer looking for 'Plausible arguments supporting raping the Environment in order to cushify my lardass', I believe. But it is in the bilge....:D

Please note the smilie.....

George Jung
04-18-2010, 02:30 PM
And the losses associated with changing 'free flow' to stagnant, silting in, systems loss. I know what happens, but ... not an expert. Trade offs.

George Jung
04-20-2010, 06:00 PM

I do believe ol' George. has assigned us to the heaped up pile of lost causes.

There's a patron saint for that one, isn't there?

04-20-2010, 07:49 PM

I do believe ol' George. has assigned us to the heaped up pile of lost causes.

There's a patron saint for that one, isn't there?Both Georges might enjoy this. Written by a friend of a friend of mine and highly recommended by myself.


It's a little old now and you may have seen it on PBS channel.

04-21-2010, 03:07 AM
Well, it looks like it is going ahead :(

Here's the BBC news article from this morning (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8633786.stm).

Environmental groups say the Belo Monte dam will threaten the survival of indigenous groups, and the lives of up to 40,000 people could be affected as 500 sq km of land would be flooded...The 11,000 MW dam would be third largest in the world...at least 70 dams are said to be planned for the Amazon region...Critics say the Belo Monte plant will be hugely inefficient, generating less than 10% of its capacity during the three to four months of the year when water levels are lowhttp://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47239000/gif/_47239718_belo_monte_map.gif

Ian McColgin
04-21-2010, 07:33 AM
It is of course fine for one to have "moved on" but I do think that since this matter is well covered in our mainstream national media, if not the right wing hysteromedia, and since there is little citizens or governments of other nations can do about such a purely internal matter except hope that our global O2 resourse in the Amozon won't be further destroyed, it's a bit unfair to grump about lack of interest.

Ian McColgin
04-21-2010, 01:54 PM
Things are heating up here:

Published on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Awarding of Brazilian Dam Contract Prompts Warning of Bloodshed

Indigenous leader says men are preparing their bows and arrows to prevent construction of the Belo Monte dam

by Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro

Indigenous leaders in Brazil are warning of imminent violence after a successful tender for the rights to construct a giant hydro-electric plant in the Brazilian Amazon which opponents claim will wreak havoc on the rainforest and its inhabitants .

The tender for the Belo Monte dam, on the Xingu river in the state of Pará, was won by a consortium of Brazilian companies on Tuesday, taking the government one step closer towards the construction of the £7bn dam, which would reputedly be the third biggest of its kind, with the capacity to produce some 11,000MW of power.

One Brazilian minister told reporters that the president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was pleased with the result. But environmentalists, indigenous leaders and their supporters, including Avatar's director, James Cameron, who has made two recent visits to the region , have vowed to fight to prevent construction.

The Kayapó leader Raoni Metuktire, who gained international exposure in the 1980s and 1990s touring the world with Sting, said indigenous men from the Xingu were preparing their bows and arrows in order to fight off the dam.

"I think that today the war is about to start once more and the Indians will be forced to kill the white men again so they leave our lands alone," he said. "I think the white man wants too much, our water, our land. There will be a war so the white man cannot interfere in our lands again."

Luis Xipaya, another of the region's indigenous leaders, told Reuters: "There will be bloodshed and the government will be responsible for that."

Plans to build a towering hydro-electric dam on the Xingu were conceived in the 1970s but have repeatedly stalled, partly as a result of international pressure. However, renewed attempts to push ahead with the dam, part of a massive government drive to boost economic growth, have revived fears for thousands of indigenous people who live in the region.

"I do not accept the Belo Monte dam," said the indigenous leader Mokuka Kayapó, who claimed the indigenous way of life would be destroyed. "The forest is our butcher. The river, with its fish, is our market. This is how we survive."

Many residents of Altamira, a sleepy Amazonian city on the banks of the Xingu near the site of the planned dam, also fear social chaos with the influx of thousands of impoverished workers.

Antonia Melo, a local human rights activist from the Xingu Para Sempre movement, described the dam as a human rights violation. "We will all be affected by over 100,000 people who will arrive in the region as a result of Belo Monte. There will be violence, a lack of food, of sewage, of health services," she warned.

Local newspapers report that immigrants have already started arriving in the region from as far away as Rio de Janeiro and Brazil's deep south in search of business opportunities and work.

Not all Brazilians oppose the dam. Many argue that Belo Monte will create jobs as well as electricity, while one major newspaper suggested that the plant would help attract foreign tourists to the region.

"I'm in favour of it and if the government does what it promises, giving us new homes, people will have more opportunities. It will be good for us because the city will develop more," Claudionor Alves de Oliveira, an Altamira carpenter, told the G1 news site.

On Tuesday activists from Greenpeace dumped several tonnes of manure outside the National Electric Energy Agency in Brasilia, where the bidding took place.

Sheila Juruna, an indigenous activist leading the anti-Belo Monte campaign, contrasted Brazil's attempts to restore order in Haiti, through its UN stabilisation force, with its treatment of the country's indigenous peoples. "Our government is helping other countries where disasters are happening. But here in Brazil they are destroying us," she said.

Speaking in Brazil last week, James Cameron called the dam an ecological disaster and said there were alternatives.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

04-21-2010, 02:25 PM
The only plus I see in this is the by no means small point that hydropower does not put lots of CO2 into the atmosphere.
There is a body of thought (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7046) suggesting released CO2 and methane from drowned plant and animal life can be greater in some hydro projects than that released by a comparable oil fired generating station generating the same amount of energy.

It all depends on the reservoir, the ecology being drowned etc.

In a study to be published in Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Fearnside estimates that in 1990 the greenhouse effect of emissions from the Curuá-Una dam in Pará, Brazil, was more than three-and-a-half times what would have been produced by generating the same amount of electricity from oil.

04-22-2010, 03:45 PM
... since there is little citizens or governments of other nations can do about such a purely internal matter ...

Sure there is. Don´t let the man divide and conquer us by playing the nationalism card:

Plans to build a towering hydro-electric dam on the Xingu were conceived in the 1970s but have repeatedly stalled, partly as a result of international pressure.

The article does not make clear that the current dam will flood less than one-third the area originally planned. I am happy to say that I was part of what got the "international pressure" going and kept up, first at the Rio 92 conference, then in Washington, where I would bring up the Xingu every time someone would listen.

Som two thirds of what was going to be wasted will now be preserved, and over one million hectares in protected areas are being set up in the Xingu basin as compensation - although it is not all the same kind of habitat as will be lost.

My question is: did we win?

Ian McColgin
04-22-2010, 03:56 PM
George, I am happy to see that you noticed what I noticed as, disinterested north american that I am not, I kept looking for news and found the post you quote six hours after my first remark which was a few days and more work before I had much that was both vague and not in the slightest enlightening that there was other than very local interest.

I am glad. I am a great believer in the local leadership providing the lead and I certainly hope that concerned Brazillians will let us know ways in which we can help pressure the government on this.

I've noted in several other threads, nothing is ever won - or lost - forever. Just because we save a portion of river this year does not mean that the minions of greed won't be back for another try. It is never over and it's always worth the fight.

04-22-2010, 04:05 PM
Concerned Brazilians are raising hell - it was mainly a domestic fight the first time around too. But echoes from abroad help to maintain morale, and to keep the pressure relentless.

That said, this dam will go ahead, unless the Indians really do pull an Avatar and start shooting arrows at the bulldozers. And even then it will get ugly, because the construction will not take place in or adjacent to Indian lands - in other words, they can be legally arrested like ordinary people.

My generation´s battle was to stop the dams and roads. The current generation has to stop the growth in demand, or all else is doomed to failure.