Rethink on Amazon hydro-dams
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.