Belo Monte Dam
The Belo Monte Dam ( formerly known as Kararaô) is a proposed hydroelectric dam complex on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil. The planned installed capacity of the dam complex would be 11,233 megawatts (MW), which would make it the second-largest hydroelectric dam complex in Brazil and the world's third-largest in installed capacity, behind the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Brazilian- Paraguayan Itaipu Dam. However, guaranteed capacity generation from the Belo Monte Dam would measure 4,571 MW, 39% of its maximum capacity. Transmission lines would connect electricity generated by the dams' turbines to the main Brazilian power grid, which would distribute it throughout the country, both for public consumption (up to 70%) and as a dedicated power plant for industries such as mining and mineral transformation (up to 30%). However, there is opposition among the international community to the project's potential construction; regarding its economic viability, generation inefficiency, and impacts to the region's people and environment. In addition, critics worry that construction of the Belo Monte Dam could make the construction of other dams upstream with greater impacts more viable and possible. Plans for the dam began in 1975 but were soon shelved due to controversy; they were later revitalized in the late 1990s. In the 2000s, the dam underwent new designs, renewed controversy and impact assessments. On 26 August 2010, a contract was signed with Norte Energia to construct the dam once the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) had issued an installation license. A partial installation license was granted on 26 January 2011 but construction was blocked by a federal judge on 25 February. On 3 March, that decision was overturned by a higher court allowing preliminary construction to begin.

Project history
Plans for what would eventually be called the Belo Monte Dam Complex began in 1975 during Brazil's military dictatorship, when Eletronorte contracted the Consórcio Nacional de Engenheiros Consultores (CNEC) to realize a hydrographic study to locate potential sites for a hydroelectric project on the Xingu River. CNEC completed its study in 1979 and identified the possibility of constructing five dams on the Xingu River and one dam on the Iriri River. Original plans for the project based off of the 1979 study included two dams close to Belo Monte. These were: Kararaô (called Belo Monte after 1989), Babaquara (called Altamaria after 1998) which was the next upstream. Four other dams were planned upstream as well and they include the Ipixuna, Kakraimoro, Iriri and Jarina. The project was part of Eletrobras' "2010 Plan" which included 297 dams that were to be constructed in Brazil by 2010. The plan was leaked early and officially released in December 1987 to an antagonistic public. The plan had Belo Monte to be constructed by 2000 and Altamaria by 2005. Such a speedy timetable was due to the belief that Brazil's relatively new environmental regulations could not stop large projects. The government offered little transparency to the people who would be affected regarding its plans for the hydroelectric project, provoking indigenous tribes of the region to organize what they called the I Encontro das Naçíµes Indí­genas do Xingu (First Encounter of the Indigenous Nations of the Xingu) or the "Altamira Gathering", in 1989. The encounter, symbolized by the indigenous woman leader Tuí­ra holding her machete against the face of then-engineer José Antonio Muniz Lopes sparked enormous repercussions both in Brazil and internationally over the plans for the six dams. As a result, the five dams above Belo Monte were removed from planning and Kararaô was renamed to Belo Monte at the request of the people of that tribe. Eletronorte also stated they would "resurvey the fall", meaning resurvey the dams on the river.

Between 1989 and 2002, the Belo Monte project was redesigned. The reservoir's surface area was reduced from 1,225 km 2 (473 sq mi) to 440 km 2 (170 sq mi) by moving the dam further upstream. The main rationale for this was to reduce flooding of the Bacajá Indigenous Area. In 1998, the Babaquara Dam was again placed into planning but under a new name, the Altamaria Dam. This surprised local leaders as they felt plans for the dams above Belo Monte were cancelled. Some officials in Brazil were determined to build a dam on a river with an average flow of 7,800 m 3/s (275,454 cu ft/s) and at a site that offers a 87.5 m (287 ft) drop. One engineer said of the dam: "God only makes a place like Belo Monte once in a while. This place was made for a dam." President of Eletronorte, José Muniz Lopes, in an interview with the newspaper O Liberal (Belo Monte entusiasma a Eletronorte por Sônia Zaghetto, 15/07/2001), affirmed: " Within the electric sector's planning for the period 2010/2020, we’re looking at three dams ”“ Marabá (Tocantins river), Altamira (previously called Babaquara, Xingu River) and Itaituba (São Luí­s do Tapajós). Some journalists say that we are not talking about these dams because we’re trying to hide them. It’s just that their time has not yet come. We’re now asking for authorization to intensify our studies for these dams. Brazil would be greatly benefited if we could follow Belo Monte with Marabá, then Altamira and Itaituba."

Second study
In 2002, Eletronorte presented a new environmental impact assessment for the Belo Monte Dam Complex, which presented three alternatives. Alternative A included the six original dams planned in 1975. Alternative B included a reduction to four dams, dropping Jarina and Iriri. Alternative C included a reduction to Belo Monte only. The new environmental impact assessment contained reductions in reservoir size and the introduction of a run-of-the-river model, in contrast to the large reservoirs characteristic of the 1975 plans. Also in 2002, Workers' Party leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva earned a victory in his campaign for president, having originally run a failed campaign in 1985 after the fall of the military dictatorship. Lula soon brokered political deals with the center and right-wing sectors in 2003, especially with ex-president José Sarney of the state of Maranhão of the PMDB, which would set the precedent that eventually characterized the two Lula administrations: cooperation between the market and the state, a combination of a free market economy with larger social spending and welfare. This economic model provided the rationale and financial support for new efforts to construct Belo Monte. In 2007, at the beginning of Lula's second term in office, a new national investment program was introduced: the Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Program to Accelerate Growth). The Belo Monte Dam Complex figured as an anchor project of the new investment plan. In 2008, another new environmental impact assessment was written, this time by Eletrobras with the participation of Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, and Andrade Gutierrez, which formally accepted Alternative C or the construction only of the Belo Monte dam itself. The assessment also presented further design changes; in order to avoid inundating indigenous territory, which is not permitted by the Brazilian Constitution, the new design included two canals to divert the water away from indigenous territories and into a reservoir called the Reservatorio dos Canais (Canals Reservoir). An additional reservoir would be created called the Reservatorio da Calha do Xingu (Xingu Riverbed Reservoir), and electricity would be generated from the two reservoirs using three dams: a complementary powerhouse called Pimental (233 MW), a complementary spillway called Bela Vista, and the main powerhouse called Belo Monte (11,000 MW). The Reservatorio dos Canais would be retained by over a dozen large dikes, and water from the reservoirs would be channeled towards the main powerhouse. However, transparency of the government's plans once again became an issue, sparking indigenous tribes of the region to organize another large meeting, called the Segundo Encontro dos Povos do Xingu (the Second Encounter of the Peoples of the Xingu) in the city of Altamira, Pará on 20 May 2008.

First license granted
In February 2010, Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA granted a provisional environmental license, one of three licenses required by Brazilian legislation for development projects. The provisional license approved the 2008 environmental impact assessment and permitted the project auction to take place in April 2010. In April 2010, Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, and CPFL dropped out of the project tender, arguing that the artificially low price of the auction (R$83/USD$47) set by the government was not viable for economic returns on investment. On 20 April 2010, the Norte Energia consortium won the project auction by bidding at R$77.97/ MWh, almost 6% below the price ceiling of R$83/MWh. After the auction, local leaders around the project site warned of imminent violence. Kayapó leader Raoni Metuktire stated: "There will be a war so the white man cannot interfere in our lands again." U.S. film director James Cameron also visited the site prior to the auction and stated he would produce an anti-Belo Monte Dam film called Message From Pandora which was later released in November. In April 2010 the Brazilian Federal Attorney General's Office suspended the project tender and annulled the provisional environmental license on claims of unconstitutionality. Specifically, Article 176 of the Federal Constitution states that federal law must determine the conditions of mineral and hydroelectric extraction when these activities take place in indigenous peoples' territories, as is the case for the "Big Bend" (Volta Grande) region. As a result, the electric utility ANEEL canceled the project auction. The same day, the appellate court for Region 1 disenfranchised the Attorney General's suspension, reinstating the project auction at ANEEL. On 26 August 2010, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the contract with the Norte Energia at a ceremony in Brasilia. Construction is not permitted to begin on the Belo Monte Dam Complex until IBAMA grants the second of the federally required environmental licenses, called the Installation License. The Installation License can only be granted once Norte Energia shows indisputable proof that it has met 40 socio-environmental mitigation conditions upon which the first provisional environmental license was conditioned. According to an October 2010 IBAMA report, at least 23 conditions had not been met. Reports indicate that on 14 January 2011, a report from staff members of FUNAI, Fundação Nacional do índio, (National Indian Foundation) had sent a report to IBAMA expressing concerns about the location of the project, its impact on reservation land, and the lack of attention to needs of the indigenous people, especially the Paquiçamba and recommending that FUNAI oppose any license to operate. Despite this report, FUNAI senior management sent IBAMA a letter on 21 January 2011 stating that it did not oppose the issuance of a limited construction license. On 26 January 2011, a partial installation license was granted by IBAMA, authorizing Norte Energia to begin initial construction activities only including forest clearing, the construction of easement areas, and improvement of existing roads for the transport of equipment and machinery. In February 2011, Norte Energí­a signed contracts with multiple suppliers for the design, production, installation and commissioning of generation and associated equipment.

Federal Court case
On 25 February 2011, the Federal Public Prosecutor filed its 11th lawsuit against Belo Monte Dam, suspending IBAMA's partial installation license, on the grounds that the Brazilian Constitution does not allow for the granting of partial project licenses. The Federal Public Prosecutor also argued that the 40 social and environmental conditions tied to IBAMA's provisional license of February 2010 had yet to be fulfilled, a prerequisite to the granting of a full installation license. On 25 February 2011, Brazilian federal judge Ronaldo Destêrro blocked the project citing environmental concerns. It was Brazil's biggest public hearing ever. The ruling was described by The Guardian as "a serious setback". President of a federal regional court Olindo Menezes overturned the decision on 3 March 2011 saying there was no need for all conditions to be met in order for preliminary work to begin.

The Belo Monte Dam complex (AHE Belo Monte) consists of three dams, numerous dykes and a series of canals in order to supply two different power stations with water. The Pimental Dam ( 3°27”²33”³S 51°57”²31”³W  /  3.45917°S 51.95861°W  / -3.45917; -51.95861  ( Pimental Dam) ) on the Xingu will be 36 metres (118 ft) tall, 6,248 metres (20,499 ft) long and have a structural volume of 4,768,000 cubic metres (168,400,000 cu ft). It will create the Calha Do Xingu Reservoir which will have a normal capacity of 2,069,000,000 cubic metres (1,677,000 acre·ft) and surface area of 333 square kilometres (129 sq mi). The dam will support a power station and its spillway will serve as the complex's principal spillway with 17 floodgates and a 47,400 cubic metres per second (1,673,915 cu ft/s) maximum discharge. The dam's reservoir will also divert water into two 12 km (7 mi) long canals. These canals will supply water to the Dos Canais Reservoir which is created within the "Big Bend" by the Belo Monte Dam ( 3°06”²44”³S 51°48”²56”³W  /  3.11222°S 51.81556°W  / -3.11222; -51.81556  ( Belo Monte Dam) ), a series of 28 dykes around the reservoir's perimeter and the Bela Vista Dam ( 3°19”²46”³S 51°47”²27”³W  /  3.32944°S 51.79083°W  / -3.32944; -51.79083  ( Bela Vista Dam) ) which lies on the Dos Canais Reservoir's eastern perimeter. The Belo Monte Dam will support the main power station in the complex. The power station will contain 20 x vertical Francis turbines listed at 550 MW (max 560 MW). Supplying each turbine with water is a 113 metres (371 ft) long, 11.2 metres (37 ft) diameter penstock, affording an average of 89.3 metres (293 ft) of hydraulic head. The Pimental Dam's power station will contain seven Kaplan bulb turbines, each rated at 25.9 MW and with 13.1 metres (43 ft) of hydraulic head. The Belo Monte Dam will be 90 metres (300 ft) tall, 3,545 metres (11,631 ft) long and have a structual volume (embankments included) of 25,356,000 cubic metres (895,400,000 cu ft) while the Bella Vista will be 33 metres (108 ft) high, 351 metres (1,152 ft) long and have a structural volume of 239,500 cubic metres (8,460,000 cu ft). The Dos Canais Reservoir will have a normal capacity of 1,889,000,000 cubic metres (1,531,000 acre·ft), a normal surface area of 108 square kilometres (42 sq mi) and a normal elevation area of 97 metres (318 ft) above sea level. The Bela Vista Dam which serves as the complex's secondary spillway will have a maximum discharge capacity of 14,600 cubic metres per second (520,000 cu ft/s).

Power generation and distribution
The planned capacity of Belo Monte is listed at 11,233 MW. It is composed of the main Belo Monte Dam, and its turbine house with an installed capacity of 11,000 MW. The Pimental Dam which also includes a turbine house will have an installed capacity of 233.1 MW, containing 25.9 MW bulb turbines. The generation facility is planned to have 20 Francis turbines with a capacity of 550”“611 MW each. In February 2011, Norte Energí­a signed contracts with:
  • IMPSA worth $450 million to design and install by the fall of 2015 four Francis turbine generation units to provide 2,500 MW of power.
  • Andritz AG to provide 3 Francis turbines and the 6 bulb turbines, and the 14 excitation systems for the main power house and additional equipment for the Pimental power house.
  • Alstom worth $682.3 million to provide 7 Francis turbines, and 14 gas insulated substations for the facility.

Walter Coronado Antunes, the former Secretary of the Environment of the state of São Paulo, and ex-President of the state water and sanitation utility Sabesp has claimed that the Belo Monte Dam Complex will be one of the least efficient hydropower projects in the history of Brazil, producing only 10% of its 11,233 MW nameplate capacity between July and October (1,123 MW, and an average of only 4,419 MW throughout the year, or a 39% capacity factor). According to the President of Brazil's Energy Research Company (EPE), 39% is "just a little below" Brazil's average of 55%. Normally, the capacity factor of hydroelectric power plants is between 30% and 80% while wind power is typically between 20% to 40%. According to a study by Eletrobras, even when at reduced capacities, Belo Monte would still have the capacity to supply the entire state of Para with electricity.

Critics claim that the project will only make financial sense if the Brazilian government builds additional dam reservoirs upstream to guarantee a year-round flow of water thus increasing the availability of generation. Supporters of the project point out that the seasonal minimum flow of the Xingú river occurs at a time when other Brazilian hydro plants are well supplied, so that no additional dams would have to be built. Reportedly, Brazil's National Council for Power Policies approved a resolution, previously sanctioned by then president Lula, that only one hydroelectric dam would be built on the Xingu. With one dam, critics don't see an advantage regarding the dam's cost to benefit ratio and question why the government would just want to construct one. Additional upstream dams would directly and indirectly affect 25,000 indigenous peoples in the entire Xingú basin. Of particular note is the Altamira (Babaquara) Dam which would flood an additional 6,140 square kilometres (2,370 sq mi) of reservoir, according to its original design.

The project is developed by the Norte Energia consortium. The consortium is controlled by the state-owned power company Eletrobras, which directly (15%) and through its subsidiaries Eletronorte (19.98%) and CHESF (15%) controls a 49.98% stake in the consortium. In July 2010, the federal holding company Eletrobras stated that there were 18 partners and reported their adjusted share in the project:
  • Eletronorte (subsidiary of Eletrobras) ”“ 19.98%
  • Eletrobras, state-owned company ”“ 15%
  • CHESF (subsidiary of Eletrobras) ”“ 15%
  • Bolzano Participacoes investments fund ”“ 10%
  • Gaia Energia e Participaçíµes (Bertin Group) ”“ 9%
  • Caixa Fi Cevics investments fund ”“ 5%
  • Construction firm OAS ”“ 2.51%
  • Queiroz Galvão, construction company ”“ 2.51%
  • Funcef pension fund ”“ 2.5%
  • Galvão Engenharia, construction company ”“ 1.25%
  • Contern Construçíµes, construction company ”“ 1.25%
  • Cetenco Engenharia, construction company ”“ 1.25%
  • Mendes Junior, construction company ”“ 1.25%
  • Serveng-Civilsan, construction company ”“ 1.25%
  • J Malucelli, construction company ”“ 1%
  • Sinobras ”“ 1%
  • J Malucelli Energia, construction company ”“ 0.25%
The Norte Energia consortium construction companies were reported to have originally held a 40% share.

The dam complex is expected to cost upwards of $16 billion and the transmission lines $2.5 billion. The project is being developed by the state-owned power company Eletronorte, and would be funded largely by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). The project will also include substantial amounts of funding from Brazilian pension funds Petros, Previ, and Funcef. Private investors interested in the project include mining giants Alcoa and Vale, construction conglomerates Andrade Gutierrez, Votorantim, Grupo OAS, Queiroz Galvão, Odebrecht and Camargo Corrêa, and energy companies GDF Suez and Neoenergia. In 2006, Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) analyzed different cost-benefit scenarios for Belo Monte as an energy project, excluding environmental costs. Initial benefits appeared marginal. When simulating energy benefits using a modeling system it became obvious that Belo Monte would require additional upstream dams to provide water storage for dry season generation. CSF concluded that Belo Monte would not be sustainable without the proposed Altamira (Babaquara) dam which would have a reservoir more than 10 times the size of Belo Monte's, flood 30 times the area submerged by Belo Monte, indigenous territories of the Araweté/Igarapé Ipixuna, Koatinemo, Arara, Kararaô and Cachoeira Seca do Irirí­ natives. Due to the project's lack of economic viability and lack of interest from private investors, the government has had to rely on pension funds and lines of credit from BNDES that draw from the Workers' Assistance Fund, oriented towards paying the public debt, to finance the project; up to one-third of the project's official cost would be financed by incentives using public monies.

WWF-Brazil released a report in 2007 stating that Brazil could cut its expected demand for electricity by 40% by 2020 by investing in energy efficiency. The power saved would be equivalent to 14 Belo Monte hydroelectric plants and would result in national electricity savings of up to R$33 billion (US$19 billion). Ex-director of ANEEL Afonso Henriques Moreira Santos stated that large dams such as Belo Monte were not necessary to meet the government's goal of 6% growth per year. Rather, he argued that Brasil could grow through increasing its installed capacity in wind power, currently only at 400 MW.

Environmental effects
The project is strongly criticized by indigenous people and numerous environmental organizations in Brazil plus organizations and individuals around the world. Belo Monte's 668 square kilometres (258 sq mi) of reservoir will flood 400 square kilometres (150 sq mi) of forest, about 0.01% of the Amazon forest. The environmental impact assessment written by Eletrobras, Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, and Andrade Gutierrez listed the following possible adverse effects:
  • The loss of vegetation and natural spaces, with changes in fauna and flora;
  • Changes in the quality and path of the water supply, and fish migration routes;
  • Temporary disruption of the water supply in the Xingu riverbed for 7 months;

Incomplete environmental assessment
In February 2010, Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA granted an environmental license for the construction of the dam despite uproar from within the agency about incomplete information in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) written by Eletrobras, Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, and Andrade Gutierrez. Previously in October 2009, a panel composed of independent experts and specialists from Brazilian universities and research institutes issued a report on the EIA, finding "various omissions and methodological inconsistencies in the EIA..." Among the problems cited within the EIA were the project's uncertain cost, deforestation, generation capacity, greenhouse gas emissions and in particular the omission of consideration for those effected by the river being mostly diverted in the 100 km (62 mi) long "Big Bed" (Volta Grande). Two senior officials at IBAMA, Leozildo Tabajara da Silva Benjamin and Sebastião Custódio Pires, resigned their posts in 2009 citing high-level political pressure to approve the project. In January 2011, IBAMA president Abelardo Azevedo also resigned his post. The previous president Roberto Messias had also stepped down, citing in April 2010 that is was because of pressure from both the government and environmental organizations. 140 organizations and movements from Brazil and across the globe decried the decision-making process in granting the environmental license for the dams in a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2010.

Loss of biodiversity
The fish fauna of the Xingu river is extremely rich with an estimated 600 fish species and with a high degree of endemism, with many species found nowhere else in the world. The area either dried out or drowned by the dam spans the entire known world distribution of a number of species, e.g. the Zebra Pleco ( Hypancistrus zebra ), the Sunshine Pleco ( Scobinancistrus aureatus ), the Slender Dwarf Pike Cichlid ( Teleocichla centisquama ), the plant-eating piranha Ossubtus xinguense and the Xingu Dart-Poison frog ( Allobates crombiei ). There has been no assessment of how the dam will impact these unique species.

Greenhouse gas budget
The National Amazon Research Institute (INPA) calculated that during its first 10 years, the Belo Monte-Babaquara dam complex would emit 112 million metric tons of Carbon dioxide equivalent, and an additional 0.783 million metric tons of CO 2 equivalent would be generated during construction and connection to the national energy grid. Dams in Brazil emit high amounts of methane, due to the lush jungle covered by waters each year as the basin fills. Carbon is trapped by foliage, which then decays anaerobically with help from methanogens, converting the carbon to methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As a result, carbon emissions are emitted from the dam each year it is in operation. A 1990 study of the Curuá-Una Dam, also in Brazil, have found that it pollutes 3.5 times more in carbon dioxide equivalent than an oil power plant would, but none of the non-CO2 atmospheric pollution associated with fossil fuel burning. Furthermore, the forest will be cleared before flooding of the area, so the CO2 and methane emissions calculated for the flooding of the forested area will be significantly undercut. On the other hand, the energy generated by the dam for the next 50 years, at an average of 4419 MW, is 1.14 bboe (billion barrels of oil equivalent). This is approximately 9% of the proven oil reserves of Brazil (12.6 bbl ), or 2% of the total oil reserves of Russia (60 bbl ), or 5.5% of the proven oil reserves of the U.S (21 bbl ). The environmental consequence of energy generated by the dam is much less carbon-dioxide than if the same energy were produced by oil or thermo-electricals. In addition, the electricity currently generated to power cities and plants in the Amazon region come from dirty and unreliable sources such as thermo-electricals (using wood, coal or oil to produce energy).

Social effects
Although strongly criticized by indigenous leaders, the president of Brazil's EPE claims they have popular support for the dam. An April 20, 2010 Folha de Sao Paulo poll showed 52% in favor of the dam. The dam will directly displace over 20,000 people, mainly from the municipalities of Altamira and Vitoria do Xingú. Two river diversion canals 500 metres (1,600 ft) wide by 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) long will be excavated. The canals would divert water from the main dam to the power plant. Belo Monte will flood a total area of 668 square kilometres (258 sq mi). Of the total, 400 square kilometres (150 sq mi) of flooded area will be forested land. The river diversion canals will reduce river flow by to 80% in the area known as the Volta Grande ("Big Bend"), where the territories of the indigenous Juruna and Arara people are located. While these tribes will not be directly impacted by reservoir flooding, and therefore will not be relocated, they may suffer involuntary displacement, as the river diversion negatively affects their fisheries, groundwater, ability to transport on the river and stagnant pools of water offer an environment for water-borne diseases, an issue that is criticized for not being addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment. Among the 20,000 to be directly displaced by reservoir flooding, resettlement programs have been identified by the government as necessary for mitigation. Norte Energia have failed to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from the Juruna and Arara indigenous tribes to be impacted by Belo Monte. The project would also attract an estimated 100,000 migrants to the area. An estimated 18,700 direct jobs would be created, and an additional 25,000 indirect jobs.

The IBAMA report
The IBAMA's environmental impact assessment has listed the following possible impacts:
  • The generation of expectations towards the future of the local population and indigenous people;
  • An increase in population and uncontrolled land occupation;
  • An increase in the needs of services and goods, as well as job demand;
  • A loss of housing and economic activities due to the transfer of population;
  • Improvements on the accessibility of the region;
  • Changes in the landscape, caused by the installation of support and main structures for the construction of the dam;
  • Damage to the archeological estates in the area;
  • Permanent flooding of shelters in Gravura Assurini;


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