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Belo Monte Dam Project Environmental Controversies


In the city of Para in Brazil where the third largest dam in the world is to be built has run into legal controversies for years now. The Belo Monte dam project was proposed back in 1975 at an estimated cost of US$18.5 billion. The dam lies in the Amazon region along the Xingu River. The multi-billion-dollar project has been faced with controversies by the government and the local residents of Sao Paulo. The last 25 years since the commencement of the project has seen both parties on and off to courts. First, the project was stopped in the 1990s amid protests. It was later redesigned, and in the 2000s, construction resumed.

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Pros of the project

The Brazilian government has been in support of the project since its perception in 1975. The dam is to be the second largest in Brazil and the third-largest in the world after the Brazilian-Paraguayan Itaipu Dam and Three Georges Dam in china (Philips, 2010). The government believes that on completion of the project, the dam will produce 11,233 megawatts of hydroelectricity (Birns & Soltis, 2011). This is 70% of Brazil’s total electricity consumption for both industries and households. Through such a huge electric supply, Brazil will have a reliable and effective power supply system. This will help steer economic growth in Brazil. The Belo Monte dam ensures that low water seasons do not affect electricity supply, especially to the industrial sector.

The construction project creates thousands of jobs for the people constructing it. On completion, it is expected to create thousands of jobs for the fast-growing population of Brazil. This will help lessen the rate of unemployment and poverty levels in Brazil. The reliable power supply will also attract foreign investors who will also provide jobs and government revenue through tax collection.

Cons of the project

The international community has strongly come out to oppose the Belo Monte dam project. Their argument is based on the dam’s economic viability, environmental impact, and generation efficiency. One environmental group clearly states that the Belo Monte dam project will lead to environmental destruction in the rain forest and pose a danger to the existence of native groups. Environmental groups also claim that the dam is likely to cause floods that will leave an estimated 50,000 people displaced.

The project has also caused stirs within the political class, with several ministers resigning from their posts. This has also caused misunderstandings among the government and international agencies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). This misunderstanding led Brazil putting an end on its annual contribution to the agency of USD 800,000. The project is also expected to affect the 24 indigenous tribes along the river and thousands of citizens (Fearnside, 2006, p.27).


The angry residents and the government came to an agreement after the Federal court intervened and made recommendations for an amicable solution. The government agreed to award the tender for the construction to the investor who will show care for the environment. This was to be through paying a fee of 800 million dollars, which was meant to protect the environment (Fearnside, 2006, p.26). Despite efforts by the government to minimize the effects of the dam on the environment, the natives still believe the project will affect the rain forest and the fish stocks along river Xingu.


The ethnic tribes in the Amazon and the Brazilian government have, for a long time, engaged in a lawsuit over the construction of the Belo Monte dam. The multi-billion hydroelectric project is set to solve electricity problems for the people of Brazil. This being a highly beneficial project to Brazilians, it also has its disadvantages to the residents. It has an effect on the environment, such as the rain forest and fish in the river. After the governments redesigning the project to be more environmentally friendly, the natives should rethink whether to support or oppose the project rather than holding demonstrations.

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Reference List

Birns, L & Soltis, K. (2011). Brazil: Controversy over Belo Monte gains momentum. London: Latin American Bureau.

Fearnside, P.M. (2006). Dams in the Amazon: Belo Monte and Brazil’s Hydroelectric Development of the Xingu River Basin. Environmental Management, 38, 26-27.

Philips, T. (2010). Awarding of Brazilian dam contract prompts warning of bloodshed. London: Guardian UK.

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