Building Belo Monte

Brazilian President Dilma Vana Rousseff. Photo: Pablo Manriquez. flickr– One of the Amazon’s most controversial development projects  

The Brazilian government is moving ahead with plans to build what will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric project – the Belo Monte Dam. The Belo Monte project is highly controversial, and has been challenged by indigenous groups and environmental organisations for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, it is now one of President Dilma Rousseff’s most prestigious projects – but what are the costs for the region and its inhabitants?

The original plans for the Belo Monte project date back to the 1980’s, when Brazil was ruled by the military. Ever since, the following governments have unsuccessfully tried to speed up the project by creating various types of national investment programs. However, the project has begun to move forward more rapidly over the past two years.

The Belo Monte project as a whole includes the building of two dams, two canals, two reservoirs and an extensive system of dikes along the Xingu River, located in the northern state of Pará. With an estimated cost of over 16 billion USD, proponents of the Belo Monte project call it the most competitive alternative for generating electric energy and present it as a clean, modern way of addressing climate change.