Amazon Under Threat
Last Wednesday, Brazil's top environmental regulator resigned in refusal to license a project that experts say would be an ecological disaster: the Belo Monte Dam Complex, which would carve a scar bigger than the Panama Canal into the heart of the Amazon. The mega-dam would flood huge tracts of rainforest and displace thousands of indigenous people. The companies who would profit from the dam have been trying to bulldoze past environmental laws -- and want to break ground within weeks.
Experts and officials who study the proposed dam overwhelmingly reject it as a catastrophe in the making. Abelardo Bayma Azevedo, who stepped down last week as president of Brazil's environmental agency, is not the first resignation caused by pressure to allow Belo Monte; his predecessor stepped down for the same reason last year, as did Brazil's Minister for the Environment -- among other top officials. Now, it's up to us to ensure that these resignations, and decades of protest within Brazil, will not be in vain.
Belo Monte would flood at least 400,000 acres of rainforest, affect hundreds of kilometres of the Xingu river, and displace over 40,000 people, including indigenous communities of 18 different ethnic groups who depend on the Xingu for their subsistence. It is so economically risky that the government has had to turn to public funds for most of the $16 billion investment. And the dam would be one of Brazil's least efficient, operating at only 10% capacity for the dry months from July to October.
The dam's backers argue that it will supply Brazil's growing energy needs. But a far greater, greener, and cheaper supply of energy is available: energy efficiency. A WWF study found that efficiency alone could save the equivalent of 14 Belo Monte dams by 2020. The benefits of a truly green approach would go to everyone, rather than a handful of powerful corporations.
Brazil might be the world's best hope for progress against climate change, and for bringing North and South countries together on the most hopeful common ground. Now, that hope resides in President Dilma. By calling together for her to reject the Belo Monte dam and pursue a better path, we invite her to live up to that opportunity -- and to help build a future that all of us, from the tribes along the Xingu to the grandchildren of today's city dwellers, can be proud of.
Ben, Graziela, Alice, Ricken, Rewan, and the whole Avaaz team