Amazon Dam Triggers Protests

Sep 12, 2010 By Deepa
Deepa Gopal's picture

In the movie 'Avatar', the Na'vi tribe on planet Pandora wage a war against miners from planet Earth who are attempting to destroy their forests and homes.

A real life 'Avatar' is taking place in the Amazon rainforest, where the indigenous tribes are protesting the Brazilian government's plan to build a dam. James Cameron, the director of Avatar, is supporting the local tribes and plans to make a movie about these people and their culture.

Third largest dam

Recently, Brazil's President Lula Da Silva gave the green light for construction of the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu (pronounced as shingu) river, a tributary of the Amazon. When completed, this 11,000 megawatt dam will be the third largest in the world after the Three Gorges in China and the Itaipu dam on the Brazil-Paraguay border.

Brazil claims that the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam will provide electricity to 23 million homes as well as support the growth of industries. The dam construction will provide much needed jobs to tens of thousands of people. The government has promised to relocate all affected people and compensate them for their property.

Why the protest?

Many native tribes have made the Amazon their home for centuries and depend on the Xingu river for transportation and fishing. Building reservoirs for the dam will flood large areas of forests and farmlands. For tribes such as the Kayapo Indians, their homes will be submerged under water and the dam will bring an end to their way of life.

The Xingu river basin is rich in bio-diversity and supports many species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Environmentalists warn that several species of fish and turtles may disappear after the dam is built. They want the Brazilian government to implement energy saving measures and pursue other renewable sources of energy. 

There is concern that construction of the Belo Monte dam will open the door to more than 60 other dams that the Brazilian government is already planning in the Amazon basin.