Belo Monte Dam- A Devastating Decision?

One of the most crucial development projects of Brazil is the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in Para. The Dam is proposed as the Brazil’s second and world’s third largest dam. The hydroelectric dam would be able to produce 11, 233 Megawatts of energy. This electricity would be then used to extract and refine the mineral deposits.

The construction comes with many prospects. More than 10, 000 people would be attracted by the view of getting new jobs as the dam would supposedly offer 16, 000 temporary and 2, 000 permanent jobs. The region would be more accessible and the construction would provide a better supply of water in the area.

However the dam proposed is strongly opposed as firstly it would displace more than 20. 000 people from the region. 400 sq Km of forest would be flooded by the dam’s reservoir and will cut the water supply to Juruna people. The transfer of people would result in the reduced economic activities. The shelters in Gravura Assurini would be flooded and archeological sites are assumed to be severely damaged by the project.

The dam is one of the 60 dams the government hopes to build in the next 20 years on the Amazon Basin. People fear that if the process of building starts then the Amazon would be drained away by all these constructions and all of its beautiful rivers will be destroyed.

The marine life would be drastically affected. The fauna fish of whose many species are only found in Amazon would be seriously affected by the dam. There will be reduced vegetation in the area and the quality of water may change.

The dam is analyzed as the most inefficient dam to be ever constructed in Brazil. Although the dam’s capacity is 11, 2300 MW but on an average it would produce only 39% all year round. In the low water season months starting from July till October, the efficiency would reduce to 10% hence producing only 1, 123MW. So to ensure there is water flowing upstream all year round, more reservoirs would have to be built. This would affect additional 25, 000 people and flood even more of the forest area.

Government says that the dam would cost US$10, 000, while industry analysts contemplate that the difficult construction would cost more than US$16, 000.

The dam has aroused the controversy of it being environmentally friendly. It is estimated that in the initial 10 years, 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted by it. This carbon dioxide would be converted to methane by the forest which is a far more dangerous greenhouse gas. Hence the dam would remit large amounts of carbon emissions. Studies show that the amount of carbon emissions by a dam in Brazil is equal to those emitted by an oil power plant.

However if an oil plant would be constructed of same size then the carbon emissions would be too much. The energy that the dam would be able to produce in 50 years would be equivalent to half the total oil reserves of US. This hydroelectric power plant would provide a more reliable and clean source of energy compared to other thermo-electrical from which currently the cities of Amazon are powered.

The Belo Monte dam might prove to be the most devastating construction in the history of Amazon so people need to look for alternatives. The Brazilians can save 40% on electricity annually that would equal to the dam’s annual energy production. The government could instead concentrate more on its wind power production which is relatively a cleaner and prove to be more efficient.

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