A battle is under way in the Amazon region of Brazil between indigenous groups and river dwellers on the one hand and big corporations on the other as the latter go ahead with their plans to build huge dams to meet Brazil’s energy needs. The BBC’s South America correspondent Wyre Davies writes on what is set to become the world’s fourth largest dam, already under construction, and the indigenous area next in line for development.
From the heart of the planet’s greatest rainforest one of the world’s biggest civil engineering projects is emerging. The Belo Monte hydroelectric dam is a monolithic monument to progress. When its 18 huge turbines are fully operational, its electricity-generating capacity will make it the world’s fourth largest dam, capable of generating 11,000 MW of energy.
At an estimated cost of $18bn (£15bn) the huge structure has been mired in controversy amid evidence of corruption and collusion between some of Brazil’s biggest construction companies and the government.
There is a human cost too. The traditional local fishing industry has been decimated and thousands of riverside dwellers, called ribeirinhos, have lost their land and their livelihoods. Many of these people, who are not members of indigenous tribes but Portuguese-speaking river dwellers, have now been forced into a completely alien urban environment.