October 01, 2011

Thirty years ago plans were drawn up to build the world's third largest hydro-electric dam project in Brazil known as the Belo Monte dam. Legal challenges and protests have been ongoing ever since then. This summer in June the Brazilian environment agency, backed by the the President of Brazil, once again gave the go ahead to start building the dam. This was despite major environmental concerns that it would harm the world's largest tropical rainforest along the Amazon river and cause displacement for about 20,000 people from the indigenous tribes who have always called this area home.

The Brazilian government has argued all along that the dam is crucial to meet growing energy demands, would create jobs and provide electricity to 23 million homes. The environment agency has stated that the dam had been subjected to a robust analysis of it's impact on the environment. It said Brazil had acted in an "effective and diligent" manner to respond to demands by environmentalists and indigenous communities living in the northern Para state, where the the $17 billion (£10bn) dam would be built.

This week however, Judge Carlos Castro Marin in Brazil has ordered a halt to the construction of the multi-billion-dollar dam project. He barred any work that would interfere with the natural flow of the Xingu river, a tributary of the Amazon river. His ruling was in favor of a fisheries group which argued that the Belo Monte dam would affect local fish stocks and could harm indigenous families who make a living from fishing. At the same time he said that the building work currently underway on accommodation buildings for the project's many workers could continue as it would not interfere with the flow of the river.

So once again those who are opposed to the building of the Belo Monte Dam can breathe a sigh of relief. However, the battle goes on because the consortium behind the project is expected to appeal against the decision.

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