61 Hydro-Electric Dams Threaten Amazon, Forests

I was surprised and delighted by Jornal Globo’s gutsy report (portuguese) on the 61 hydro electric plants planned from here until 2019, which will destroy 5300 square kilometers of forest– an area approximately four times the size of São Paulo, South America’s largest city. The hydro projects will require 7700 kilometers of transmission wires, and will therefore also require the construction of roads and settlements, a further threat to Brazil’s forests. The proposed hydro projects will generate 42 kilowatts of electricity and most of the dams will be funded by Brazil’s giant development bank, the BNDES.

According to Globo, 15 of the proposed hydro-project will interfere directly with protected areas, and 13 of the projects will interfere directly or indirectly with indigenous reserves. The project is part of the PAC-2, President Dilma’s “Program for Accelerated Growth.” No environmental assessments have been performed. Globo reports that a Federal Defender (from the Ministry of Public Defense– Ministério Público Federal (MPF) from Pará state, Felício Pontes Jr., calls the government’s electric utility, Electrobras, “the government’s biggest black box,” because little public information has been made available on ambitious electricity projects planned or currently underway.

Although Electrobras is 52 percent owned by government, it is a publicly traded company (traded on the Bovespa) and is Latin America’s largest power utility. Indigenous resistance against hydro-projects in Brazil has been ongoing.

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