The Brazilian government has given the green light on a “partial” installation license to break ground on the Belo Monte Dam. The dam would be located the Xingu River, a tributary to the Amazon, and would require that close to 600 acres of rainforest be cleared for its construction.
Last year director James Cameron compared the plans to destroy the rainforest to the plight of the Na’vi people he created in his box office hit Avatar, which is really saying something considering they were all nearly killed.
This would be the third-largest project of its kind in the world, and has been strongly opposed by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) and environmental groups. That’s because the risky $17 billion dam would divert nearly all the water from the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch, causing its reservoirs to flood more than 100,000 acres of rainforest, displace nearly 40,000 indigenous people and generate huge quantities of methane gas— which, to put it into perspective, is at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The partial license was approved by IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and will allow for access roads to be built and forest to be cleared to make way for the 3.7 mile dam.
“IBAMA is putting the region at a high social and environmental risk by granting a license allowing installation of the construction site while not requiring compliance with legally-mandated safeguards,” said Public Prosecutor Ubiratan Cazetta. “No effective preparations have been made to absorb the thousands of migrants who will be attracted to the region in search of employment in dam construction. We’re very concerned about what could happen here.”