Major Dam Projects Halted

SUBHEAD: There is hope for Kauai - Major dam projects halted in Brazil and Burma.  

By Stephen Messinger on 29 September 2011 for Treehugger -  

Image above: Indigenous Amazon indians protest Belo Monte Dam. From (

Since the 1970s, when plans were first conceived to build a massive hydroelectric dam along the Xingu river in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, the forces of development have had to contest with unyielding voices of protest -- and it seems, for the time being, the latter has the upper hand.

Recently, counter to the aspirations of Brazilian government officials, a judge has ruled that construction on the Belo Monte dam must be halted, echoing the environmental concerns held by those in opposition to what would be the third largest facility of its type in the world -- in one of the most ecologically important regions on the planet.

After decades of being locked up in litigation, namely from the thousands of indigenous community members who stand to be displaced by it, construction on the dam at Belo Monte was ultimately given the green-light earlier this year. Since then, protests have been redoubled, gaining international support from conservationists throughout the world. And it's no wonder, considering the facility's potentially massive footprint.

Once completed, the 11,000-megawatt dam would flood around 122 thousand acres of pristine Amazon rainforest that's currently home to some 50 thousand mostly indigenous residents. Supporters of the project say the facility would provide enough energy to power 23 million homes and lead to an economic boon in the region.

But despite the political will to see the project through, numerous court challenges continue to offer hope to protesters -- the latest concerns the legality of diverting the Xingu river. This week, Judge Carlos Castro Martins ruled that construction must halt. A report from the BBC outlines the basis of his objections:
Judge Martins barred the Norte Energia company behind the project from "building a port, using explosives, installing dikes, building canals and any other infrastructure work that would interfere with the natural flow of the Xingu river, thereby affecting local fish stocks".
He said the building of canals and dikes could have negative repercussions for river communities living off small-scale fishing.
Protesters are hailing the halting of construction as a victory for their cause, albiet a modest one. The organization spearheading the project, backed by the high-ranking Brazilian officials, says they are already planning to appeal the ruling.

Chinese backed dam halted in Burma with secret US influence  
Image above: Political cartoon of Burmese military dictator collecting money by impoverishing his people selling off electricity and water to China and Thailand. From (  

By Matthew McDermott on 30 September 2011 for TreeHugger -  

One day after Brazil's hotly protested Belo Monte dam is halted by court order, another massive hydropower project is halted, on the other side of the world and by a government not exactly renowned for conservation.

In a letter read out in parliament, Burma's president announced the the suspending of construction of the Chinese-backed Myitsone dam on the northern part of the Irrawaddy River.

Perhaps more remarkable, considering the historic lack of public representation in government in Burma, is that it a public campaign played a significant role in stopping the 500 foot high dam, which was due to be completed in 2019 and would've created a 300 square mile reservoir.

The Myitsone dam would've been 3.6 GW in size, with the majority of the electricity generated going to China. Thousands of people would've been displaced by the construction of the dam.
An environmental assessment, commissioned by the governments of Burma and China found,
The fragmentation of the Irrawaddy river by a series of dams will have serious social and environmental problems not only upstream of dams but also far downstream in the coastal area. There is no need for such a big dam to be constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy river. (The Guardian)
While certainly a victory for the people of Burma and for environmental conservation, The Guardian also reports on a very interesting twist in the road leading to the decision to stop construction.

According to diplomatic cables, newly released by Wikileaks, the US government, via its embassy in Burma, was funding some of the civil society groups opposing Myitsone.

While not specifically stated in the cables, it wouldn't be surprising if the US support for these groups opposing the dam had at least as much to do with the fact that China would be the main beneficiary of the electricity from it, as it had to do with support of democracy in Burma or (still less) environmental conservation.

See also:
Inhabitat: Belo Monte Dam gets Go-Ahead 6/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Giant Brazil Dam Blocked 3/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Brazil Approves Giant Dam 1/30/11


No comments :

Post a Comment