Re­think on Ama­zon hy­dro-dams

The Guardian Weekly - - World Roundup -

5 Brazil raised hopes that it may fi­nally step back from the con­struc­tion of megadams af­ter a sur­prise state­ment by a se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial said the coun­try’s hy­dropower pol­icy needed to be rethought in the face of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, in­dige­nous sen­si­tiv­i­ties and pub­lic un­ease.

Anti-dam ac­tivists wel­comed the ap­par­ent shift, de­spite scep­ti­cism about the de­clared mo­tives, which they be­lieve mask a dry­ing up of bribes from the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. The de­ci­sion could re­prieve the Ta­pa­jós and free-flow­ing rivers from a plan to open half the Ama­zon basin to hy­dro-de­vel­op­ment.

Brazil al­ready gets more than 70% of its elec­tric­ity from hy­dropower – one of the high- est pro­por­tions in the world. Un­til re­cently, most of the gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity came from plants near the south­ern bor­der and the eco­nomic hubs of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Hor­i­zonte. But the dam builders – backed by the Work­ers’ party ad­min­is­tra­tions of Dilma Rouss­eff and Luiz Iná­cio Lula da Silva – pushed north into the Ama­zon with the huge Belo Monte project on the Xingu river, de­spite en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, court bat­tles and re­sis­tance from in­dige­nous res­i­dents.

The Ta­pa­jós was the next ma­jor river in the sights of the con­sor­tium led by util­ity Eletro­bras and con­struc­tion firms such as Ode­brecht. Two dams have been com­pleted on the Te­les Pires trib­u­tary and hun­dreds more were planned.

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