Hyroelectric project on the Xingú River. The 3rd largest in the world, installed capacity 11.233 MW.
The Brazilian government is currently constructing what would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric project on one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the Xingu River. The Belo Monte Dam would divert the flow of the Xingu, devastate an extensive area of the Brazilian rainforest, displace over 20,000 people, and threaten the survival of indigenous tribes that depend on the river. The government says the project will cost more than US$13 billion. While the project will have an installed capacity of 11,233 MW, the dam would be highly inefficient, generating as little as 1000 MW during the 3-4 month low water season. This will be an argument to buil further dams upstream. The project is owned by a consortium called Norte Energia, mostly owned by the government, but mining giant Vale owns around 5% of it. Belo Monte will be a source of electricity for Vale’s mining operations in Para. However, the economics of Belo Monte are very doubtful. The Brazilian government has plans to build more than 60 large dams in the Amazon Basin over the next 20 years, implying the destruction of all the magnificent rivers of the Amazon. As the International Rivers network puts it: “The Amazon will become an endless series of lifeless reservoirs, its life drained away by giant walls of concrete and steel”. International Rivers is trying to help the Kayapó and other indigenous groups, lawmakers, and environmental and human rights groups to protect the Xingu River Basin from large dams The country now has around 121,000 megawatts, of which at least 70% is from hydroelectric power plants. There are plans to increase hydroelectricity beyond the real needs of the population. Such plans are driven by primary exports. Belo Monte is a government project. It is funded primarily by BNDES, a bank with a lending portfolio bigger than the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank combined. Electricity would belong to Eletrobras, Brazil’s government controlled electric power company. The area around Belo Monte now looks like a deforested huge mining operation. An article in Forbes foresees that Belo Monte will face large cost overruns, apart from let alone the environmental damage caused by diverting the tributaries of the Xingu, preventing navigation and fishing.The 25,000 workers there will not be employed forever. They have maybe two years to go if all goes according to plan and Belo is finished in 2016. There are continuous complaints from displaced indigenous peoples. In late May 2014, it was reported in The Ecologist that "20 Amazon Indians walked to the Belo Monte dam site to demand the company keep its promises to compensate indigenous communities. Police shot them with 'rubber bullets' and stun grenades, wounding four...". This has happened again and again.