Geographical Issues Article Study on the Belo Monte Dam Project Essay Sample

Geographical Issues Article Study on the Belo Monte Dam Project Pages Download
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An enormous 80% of Brazil’s electrical power is harnessed from its rivers. However a controversial dam project, the Belo Monte Dam, to be built on the Xingu River in the Brazilian state of Pará has thrown the country into uproar, with indigenous peoples and citizens alike protesting in their thousands. The project for what would be the third-largest dam in the world is projected to cost the Brazilian government in excess of around US $20 billion, generating 11,000 megawatts of electricity at full capacity, and has recently seen yet another halt in construction after the Rio Summit in August 2012, due to a court ruling that the indigenous peoples had not been consulted about the project as is law in Brazil. For a project conceived around twenty years ago now, this is a huge setback for the government. And with a predicted energy consumption increase of around 60%, Brazil needs clean renewable energy projects more than ever.  Stop The Belo Monte Monster Dam – Source 1

There’s been fierce protest, yet the government is still moving ahead with the Belo Monte project. Indigenous people’s lives will be affected by the flooding and 20,000 people displaced. The dam is energy inefficient, and a large amount of energy will be sold rather than go to the people. The government has forced this dam upon the population and has consistently lied, and corrupted tests. Analysis

This article was written by an Amazonwatch Pressure Group member, condemning the Belo Monte Dam and trying to convince the reader that it is not a viable project but is instead a near pointless development that will threaten the livelihoods of many indigenous Amazonian tribes. Even in the first sentence of the article it is clear that it is intended to be biased against the dam. With the quoting of the Brazilian government moving ahead “at any cost” quoted in inverted commas to imply the government’s insensitivity towards the operation, this is reinforced with the statement that the dam’s building dates back to a “military dictatorship”, designed to show the lack of choice that is being given to the civilians of the country. The use of facts and figures in the second paragraph tries to reinforce the huge size of the project with figures designed to shock you as to the size of the scheme, and the emotive language of words such as “force” to describe the number of people who must be displaced and to make the reader sympathise with them, to make it look as if the government is dictating this dam against the will of so many people, and “enormous” to describe the number of harmful gases that would be released into the atmosphere, to get the backing of those who are more environmentally minded and concerned about global warming and the greenhouse effect.

The use of “however” to rebuttal every argument made for the benefits of the dam, such as that it “will also attract 100,000 migrants to the region” is used throughout the article. This is to show that each argument or opinion the reader could form can be nipped at the bud quickly with a counter-argument, and further reinforces the stance taken by the writer of the piece. Describing the plight of the Xingu’s “poor” farmers endears them to us, as well as calling the indigenous peoples “vulnerable”. This further tries to acquire the reader’s sympathies and rally them against the dam. The article states that the dam “will be one of the most energy inefficient dams in the history of Brazil”, followed by more facts and figures to back this up, and voicing the grave impact on the forests and indigenous peoples. Then the “government changed their approach” by changing the names of the dam and area from the original tribe names to those of their own, and selling the project as “one dam complex”, despite the fact that “the government knows that building Belo Monte is economically unviable unless more dams are built upstream”.

In this way, the writer tries to make an enemy of the Brazilian government, to make it look as if it is a dictator, or implying that they will do anything in their power to make the dam project go ahead. Throughout the article, different tribe names are used to exemplify the sheer number of indigenous peoples that will be affected by the building of the dam, and this endears the reader to their struggle against this uncaring government, bent on getting their own way, and the “extensive damage” the project will cause. It is stated that the government “claims” that the energy generated would power homes, but “in reality” only 70% would serve this function, that 30% has been bought by Eletrobras for industry, and is another implication that the government has lied to the people, and is exploiting the dam for their own gain for several industry mining schemes while the Brazilians “would continue to pay the highest energy tariffs in the developing world”.

The article offers an alternative to the dam of reinforcing existing hydroelectric infrastructure and “investing in energy efficiency” which reinforces the argument that Belo Monte is a bad idea. In addition, it is claimed that “the government is also siphoning Brazilian public pension funds and the country’s workers’ insurance funds in order to bankroll a full 25% of the project’s construction consortium, called Norte Energia”. This again is designed to make the government look like the bad guy, that they are building the dam for their own gain with no thought to the public, and this statement would definitely rally the Brazilian public into opposing the dam, and reinforces this with bad connotation words such as “lured” and “back-door deals”. The grand controversy over a shoddily done test for the environmental effects of the project is used by the article to again win favour, by stating that “data was missing regarding water quality” etc., and that the team conducting it, IBAMA, were operating on a “wait and see” attitude, with “harsh criticism from national and international experts” and an EIA that “barely covers even the minimum amount of information required”, over which two senior company technicians resigned.

This is designed to shock you at the corruption of the scheme, and to show that even people on the inside did not approve of the project, again making the government look immoral. This is further reinforced with the implication that the hearings were designed so that they’d “take days for indigenous people travelling by boat to reach” and the emotive use of “dismissed, ridiculed and answered evasively” again sympathises you to the victims’ problem. Finally, by showing in the last paragraphs that what the government is doing is against laws that they made, the article seeks to show how corrupt the entire operation is, and the “heavy hand” of the government, with the powerful last line securing your sympathies for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Contextualisation

The article states that the Belo Monte reservoir will flood 668km² of land, however this is not quite correct, as a report by The International Rivers Association ( states that in fact it is over 100km² less, at 516km² that will be flooded. The Association also confirms that the authorities of the country continued with the construction of the dam despite having an injunction still filed against them. It is claimed that 20,000 people will be displaced from the area that will be flooded, and 100,000 migrants will be attracted to the area as a result of the dam, and both these statements are true, as backed up by Wikipedia.

The claim that the project will confront indigenous communities with disease etc., is fairly accurate, as seen with dams on the Colorado River, where certain types of fish have become extinct causing food problems, and silt has built up in the water, and in Panama where stagnant water such as in a reservoirs can contribute to the reproduction of mosquitoes, and the spread of tropical disease. “It will produce only 10% of its 11,233 megawatt installed capacity during the dry season” – According to the Brazilian government Mines and Energy report, it will produce around 4,500MW annually on average. There is no way of knowing the capacity during the dry season as additional dams would have to be built upstream, although Raoni supports the figure. The statement that only 70% of the energy will be sold for public consumption is also backed up by every other article and the International Rivers Organisation. The claim that the government is also using public pension funds on the project is also backed up by Wikipedia, and said that Brazil could cut expected electricity demand by 40% by investing in energy efficiency, however we do not know if this is true as the original report has now been disposed of, and no other studies have been conducted of this type.

IBAMA claims that “there are sufficient elements to attest to the environmental viability of the project” and this is argued against by the article. Rightly so, as numerous reports such as those of the International Rivers Organisation speak of fish populations dying from lack of oxygen, a great deal of rainforest being submerged and consequently forming methane, and habitats flooded. The organisation also backs up the claim that insufficient public hearings took place, although the article is wrong in saying they only took place in Altamira and Vitoria do Xingu. It is said that the missing water quality data violates article 176 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution, which states that the “law shall establish specific conditions when such activities are to be conducted on the boundary zone or on Indian lands”, but not only this, it also violates article 231.

Belo Monte Frequently Asked Questions -Source 2
The dam is necessary for increasing electricity consumption, as the required amounts will not be created by wind, solar and biomass energy, measures are being taken to preserve the environment and the dam won’t contribute to the greenhouse effect, indigenous peoples won’t be affected, but urban areas will benefit. Analysis

This article is a question and answer conducted by the Federal government of Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, so it can already be assumed that the entire article will be biased towards the building of the dam. The article is twelve pages long and a great deal of complicated words and governmental jargon is used, and this makes the article more difficult to read and understand, thus it will be a lot less relatable to the general public. However the layout of the article as a question and answer format will make it easier for someone looking for specific information about the construction of the dam to find what they’re looking for quickly. The article compares Brazil’s 569kWH of energy consumption with the 4,530kWH of the United States to debut the idea of the dam as a way to keep this consumption level low, and to make civilians proud that their consumption is so low. Then by using “poverty eradication and improved income distribution” as an implied example as to why the country will “need to install about 6,000MW” of capacity each year, the Ministry appeals to people’s desire to reduce poverty, and make it look like this is a reason for the dam, already making it sound like a better idea before the dam itself is even mentioned.

Then “the energy produced by Belo Monte will be used to support Brazil’s continued economic and population growth” is further designed to make it seem already that the dam project is the only viable option to make the country a better place. The use of vague complicated words and figures in answer to the question as to whether there are alternative ways of meeting the national energy demand of Brazil is intended to make it look as if all the tests are done, that the government knows what it’s talking about, that there is absolutely no other option but the Belo Monte dam. This implication is backed up with the statement that although wind, biomass and solar energy will be a help towards meeting Brazil’s energy demand, “these alternative sources are affected by the seasons”, and that “the most appropriate solution in our case is adopting a joint approach between alternative energy sources and Belo Monte, in order to reduce the need for fossil fuels”. This is designed to try and get those concerned about the environment and fossil fuels running out on side, and to imply that Belo Monte is the only viable solution to all Brazil’s problems.

“Meeting the growing energy demand with wind and biomass energy alone would be twice as much as that of Belo Monte”. This statement makes the dam look like the best option financially as well as environmentally. It is again shown that Belo Monte would be the only viable option with the justification of the dam because “reducing or eliminating losses, alone, would not compensate for Brazil’s growing energy demand”. Again this makes it look like the government has considered every option and consequence and has concluded that the country needs this project. The article then goes on to try and convince the reader that the project is an environmentally worthwhile development by implying that the only other choice would be to build nineteen gas-powered thermal plants which would reportedly emit more “than the total emissions released by the entire Brazilian electricity industry in 2007”, at 19 metric tonnes of CO2. Loose ends and alleged cons of the dam have been attempted to tie up, with an allegation that it is outside factors and social and environmental requirements, such as an “adoption of a minimum hydrogram… so as to ensure indigenous communities the necessary conditions for fishing and navigation”.

This admits that the dam will not be as productive as it should, however, “this has not turned the project unfeasible, since, when operational, the plant will produce electricity to the Brazilian population for nearly half the price of other energy sources”. This section appeals to the Brazilian population in that they will rally for a project that will allow them to save money, which is reinforced by the next paragraph with “In the event of cost or time overruns, the financial burden will not be passed on to taxpayers or consumers”, and is an attempt by the article again to make the dam look like the only option, and butter up the taxpayer. The article attempts to get everyone on side with the claim that none of the indigenous lands will be flooded by the reservoir, and that ‘The National Indian Foundation’ even themselves “concluded that the project is feasible”. This is a big statement, as it is primarily indigenous peoples thought to be victims of the dam. Another big statement follows – “Belo Monte will be the only hydropower plant on the Xingu River”.

This again goes against what is alleged of the government’s plans to start with Belo Monte and continue to build dams upstream. The Brazilian public is again appealed to, as the article states that 19,000 direct jobs will be created by the dam. It is also stated that the government has worked closely with the local community, implying that a large majority of them agree with the project, and giving a list of activities carried out to make sure of this, designed to make it look like the government care. This followed by a huge chunk of the article focused on the social benefits of Belo Monte. They state that although many will be displaced, they will move to less “precarious conditions” with “brick houses in urbanised areas”, and that of “urban and environmental recovery”, in the areas surrounding the dam, again designed to make the Brazilian government look caring, as well as health, environment and infrastructure, on top of an implication that indigenous peoples will benefit.

To try and further obtain the reader’s approval for the development, the use of bold lettering emphasising a “large amount of low-cost energy” and “avoiding the emission of greenhouse gases”. This again shows that the article is trying to bias you towards the building of Belo Monte. Lastly, emphasis is placed on the fact that Belo Monte has passed all the environmental tests, and received each license it needs, and that the developers are going to “ensure full compliance with the conditions set forth in the environmental licenses granted”. A great deal of the disapproval and campaigns against the dam have been on the basis of environmental protection, and by finishing with this, the article seeks to finalise that the dam will be a green project and will not affect anyone in the negative. Contextualisation

It is claimed by the Ministry that Brazil consumes a low 560 kWh of electricity per capita, and it should be kept this low. However this figure is extremely doubtful. A Trading Economics study claimed the real number to be around 2206 kWh per capita, although this is an astounding difference and so could be doubted the same way. In addition to this, the statement that 18 million households, or 60 million people would be provided with energy. However according to Wikipedia, the dam working at reduced capacity would provide the state of Para electricity, which consists of around 7 million people. Even at full capacity the dam could not multiply households served by more than 8. It is stated by the article that although fixing and improving old energy generation systems has been suggested, and is a good idea, it would only produce an extra 270MW, 6% of the Belo Monte plant capacity. However the WWF 2007 Report contradicts this, stating that by investing in energy efficiency, Brazil could reduce expected demand for electricity by 40%, the equivalent of 14 Belo Monte projects. Alongside this, the article goes on to say that alternative sources of energy will be affected by the season.

This is a hypocritical statement, as the article articulates itself that the Belo Monte plant will not run at full capacity until the wet season, and will produce less than 4,500MW in the dry. The claim that meeting the growing energy demand with wind and biomass would cost twice that of Belo Monte is not known, but according to , wind energy is a rapidly increasing industry, with prices constantly going down, and so there may well be a chance that this fact will soon be untrue. The article states that the Belo Monte plant will emit virtually no greenhouse gases. This is true of the structure itself, however the 50% of vegetation not removed will create methane and other harmful greenhouse gases, as can be observed by the similar dam project on the Chinese Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Dam, causing water pollution, vegetation pollution, silt and waste build-up.

On top of this, “it would take 19 gas powered thermal plants (500MW) to equal the energy output of the Belo Monte dam” is a blatant lie. The article states that the average output of the dam will be 4,500MW, and yet 19 thermal plants at 500MW would produce 9,500MW. Doubtful facts and calculations such as this cause the other statistics offered by the Ministry to become dubious. The Ministry states that the electricity created will be nearly half the price of other energy sources. This is not confirmed by other sources, however hydroelectric power is the cheapest energy source in Brazil, so it may well be true. “None of the 10 indigenous communities located in the Belo Monte project will be flooded as a result of the dam.” – This is true, as backed up by the Amazon Watch pressure group. However almost all the communities would be indirectly affected by the change in water flow, but around 200 indigenous people did participate in public hearings, although the article contradicts itself by first stating there were thirty public hearings, then that there were four. The statement that Belo Monte will be the only plant built in the area is countered by both other articles, as well as the International Rivers Association, and those moved do NOT have a choice, as the article states, as interviews with those being resettled disprove this fact – Huffington Post.

19,000 jobs or more will in fact be created, as the article states, as reinforced by

The article claims that with the intent of environmental conservation, there will be created “two conservation units on the right bank of the Xingu River, totalling 280,000 ha of forests”. This statement is extremely doubtful – an article by Forbes in fact states that “Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, wants to eliminate more than 86,000 hectares of protected areas in the Amazon”. In addition, the assurance that indigenous peoples would benefit from training in economic activities, infrastructure, service and housing improvement is stated only by this article and others from the Ministry of Mines and Energy and government. There is no mention of this anywhere else, causing doubt as to whether it is true. The article is however right in saying that the plant will provide low cost energy. Between 85% and 95% of Brazil’s energy is generated from hydroelectric power, and this is a very cheap option.

Confirms that this form of energy is efficient and inexpensive, and can be produced for only 0.7 American cents per kwh hour. Which is around 0.34 Brazilian real. Further on, it is claimed that all environmental checks have been taken, however this is contradicted by Amazon Watch, Huffington Post, International Rivers and countless other organisations and articles. There were certainly not “40 environmental protection and sustainability conditions” met by the project’s managers, according to these sources.

Source 3
A series of dams is violating local and indigenous peoples’ human rights, driven by corporate greed. The dam will change people’s lives of all recognition, they are all opposing the dam, but no-one is listening, and
those displaced are offered pittance.

This article is written by a journalist and blogger, Bianca Jagger, founder of an organisation opposing the Belo Monte dam and protecting indigenous peoples, so we can expect it to be biased. This is shown in the first couple of paragraphs of the piece, with a separate paragraph for the line: “I am not holding my breath”. This sets a tone of opposition towards the subject of the blog, and already shows her disdain and bias against world leaders and the government. Factual information is given about the funders of the Belo Monte Dam, and is then followed by emotive language, with statements that the dam is “threatening” the indigenous tribes and “devastating” the environment. There is consistent use of negative language in regards to the dam project, with the use of “a warning” to describe the Madeira Dam in regards to what is to come. Then “serious human rights violations” and “irreversible environmental damage” seek to shock the reader and sympathise you towards the peoples of the area, making the government look like the bad guy, with reinforcement by the statement that they are keeping this project “under the radar”.

The structure is described as “monstrous” and a “megadam”, – negative words to make it sound imposing and threatening, rather than a good idea. Your sympathy is sought for with the reminder that the indigenous people are dependent on the river for their survival, and the interview with the Bishop of Xingu, with his opinion that the dam “will only be green if they paint it green” and “it used to be green around here. The forest was green”, reinforces the plight of the area. The government is again made to look bad with Jagger’s declaration about its “short-sighted policies” and “corporate greed”, and that they are “sacrificing human rights for development”. The use of first-hand experience, a trip by Jagger to the Belo Monte area itself, is used to make the suffering by those “devastated by these dams” more real, to make you sympathise more with those she interviews. This is a good ploy to shock you about some of the things she has seen, to help rally you against the government and the dam development project itself. The account of “the courage and generosity” of the people reinforces this, as does the account of two residents being “forcibly evicted” from their farm by Norte Energia.

This makes the corporation look like a monster. The description of Norte Energia that they “destroyed our crop, cut down the cacao plants” further implies that this corporation and the government are like an unstoppable force of evil, and that the civilians have no choice. The negative view of the dam is reinforced by the statement that “the reality is worse than I could have imagined”, and the praise of Brazil as a beautiful country seeks to make you want to preserve that characteristic. And emotive words such as “tragically” and “struggled”, “heartbreaking testimony” exaggerate the plight of these peoples. By interviewing an indigenous leader who claims to have received “death threats”, the government is again made to look like a monster, that it has “abandoned its people in the name of ‘development’, profit and energy”, and by speaking of the options the locals who have been displaced by Norte Energia’s have, of child prostitution, alcoholism etc, you are made to sympathise with them more, that their compensation is “pittance”.

“This government, and the one before it, will be remembered as being responsible for the destruction of the Xingu, and of its people”. – The fact that this statement has been made by the Bishop of Xingu further boosts the image that the lives of these locals are being ruined, and boosts your sympathy towards the peoples of the area. “Both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the OAS have asked Brazil to call a halt to the project”. – This is used to show that not only are the locals, campaigners and indigenous peoples against the dam project, there are major organisations against it too, and even these can’t stop the government bulldozing everyone and everything to get what they want. Following this, a statement by Norte Energia described as “a cruel irony and a flagrant attempt to deceive the people of Brazil”. The writer is trying to nip every benefit of the dam, and statement made by the developers, at the bud as complete lies, and show the disadvantage of the people, and by comparing it to other companies that have lied, she reinforces this. Jagger cites the devastating human and environmental consequences, that the peoples’ fish and therefore food supplies will be damaged, as well as more diseases rife due to the stagnant water. This further rallies you against the building of the dam, declaring even more cons.

The placement of the statement by a company manager, that “we’re going to build all the dams that we possibly can in the Amazon” seeks to shock the reader, to show that the government has been lying about there only being one dam project and that they’re going to do everything they can to get what they want, making them again look bad. This could be information taken out of context to imply a statement more negative than it really is. The benefits of the dam for certain companies and for the economy as a whole have been stated, but this is followed by a statement that one of the companies, Andritz’s “human rights track record is appalling”, followed by an account of other companies doing the same. This puts a dampener on the benefits, and brings the subject back to the suffering of the people at the hands of the government. “Belo Monte is only the beginning of this human rights and environmental catastrophe” is a powerful phrase, designed to shock you, to show you that despite all the things that Belo Monte will devastate, the government plans to build even more dams at the expense of the people.

The word “devastated” is repeatedly used in an emotive way to keep reminding you of the plight that the peoples are experiencing, as well as a reminder of the bias of the article, with a great deal of interviews of the local people to reinforce this. By giving an account of the local meetings about the project, where people brought in eviction orders over the Madeira Dam, and gave accounts of what had happened to them and how it had affected their lives, Jagger makes you sympathise again with what they’ve had to go through. Then by describing the Dam as an “imposing, gargantuan structure” that “looms” out of the river, it is again painted in a negative light. The conclusion that “it’s not too late to stop Belo Monte” followed by an account of other energy sources such as solar power that have been successful, seeks to provide you with hope, and kick you into action in that you’ll help the writer campaign against the project. “Now is the time for President Rousseff to take concrete steps to avert this human rights catastrophe and prevent the environmental crime that is Belo Monte, before it’s too late.” –This last statement is intended to be a powerful end to the article, to confirm your opinion that something needs to be done about the Belo Monte project, and to rally you against it.

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