Barra Grande Dam on River Pelotas, Brazil


The Barra Grande Hydroelectric Plant is currently running up on the border between the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. It was built and is operating by the Brazilian business consortium called Barra Grande Energetica S/A (BAESA Inc), which includes the US aluminum giant ALCOA. The participation of ALCOA in this project is not surprising given that the aluminum industry is the world’s largest industrial consumer of electrical energy, using about 1% of all the electrical energy generated globally, and about 7% of world industrial consumption. In the case of Brazil, the aluminum industry accounts for roughly 8% of the country’s total electricity use.

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Basic Data
NameBarra Grande Dam on River Pelotas, Brazil
ProvinceRio Grande do Sul e Santa Catarina
SiteCelso Ramos
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsInstalled power: 500 to 1000 MW

Power generation: 3.334.056 MWh/ year

Flooded area: 50 a 100 km²

For the formation of the reservoir, an area of approximately 8,140 hectares was flooded, 90% of which is covered by primary forest. The area is also covered by forests at different stages of regeneration, among which 4235.50 hectares of forest of Araucaria which is a threatened species component of the Mata Atlântica (Forest). Out of this total area, the amount of 2077.45 hectares was primary vegetation and the remaining 2158.50 hectares of secondary forest in an advanced stage of regeneration.

The Mata Atlântica ecosystem is composed by a mosaic of forest formations with little more than 7% of the original forest cover, which is highly fragmented due to the predominantly coastal land occupation in Brazil.

The Mata Atlântica is an area of great biological diversity who has beyond 20,000 plant species, about 849 species of birds, 370 species of amphibians, 200 species of reptiles, 270 of mammals and about 350 species of fish, many of wich are threatened with extinction.
Project Area (in hectares)8,140,00
Level of Investment (in USD)623,000,000.00
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date01/09/2004
End Date03/11/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesCamargo Corrêa Cimentos S/A from Brazil - shareholder
DME Energética Ltda from Brazil - Shareholder
Companhia Brasileira de Alumínio from Brazil - Shareholder
Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) from United States of America - shareholder
Companhia Paulista de Força e Luz from Brazil - Shareholder, power generation
Engevix Engenharia S.A. from Brazil - The company conducted the EIA
Votorantim Group from Brazil
Relevant government actorsBrazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA); Ministry of Mines and Energy; Environment Ministry; Attorney General of Nation; Federal Public Ministry (Federal Prosecutors); National Electric Energy Agency
International and Financial InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil - Financer
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersRede de ONG´s da Mata Atlântica (RMA), Federação de Entidades Ecologistas Catarinenses (FEEC), Instituto AquaBios, Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB), Associação de Preservação do Meio Ambiente do Alto Vale do Itajaí (APREMAVI)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
The Movement of Populations Affected by Dams (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – MAB) and Land of Rights (Terra de Direitos) have filed a complaint with the OECD’s National Contact Point for Brazil (OECDWatch)
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.This is definitely not a case of successful environmental justice because despite all the illegality committed by the consortium entrepreneur the dam was built and is operating. The economic argument won against environmental legislation.
Sources and Materials

Rosa, Michel Fernandes da (2012). A relação entre ser humano e natureza sob a influência da modernidade observada através do direito : estudo a partir do caso da usina hidroelétrica Barra Grande. Coimbra. Dissertação de Mestrado em Sociologia, apresentada à Faculdade de Economia da Universidade de Coimbra.
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Prochnow, M. (2005) Org.. Bara Grande: a hidrelétrica que não viu a floresta. Rio do Sul
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ENGEVIX (1997). Relatório de Impacto Ambiental (RIMA): UHE Barra Grande.
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About Atlantic Forest
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Dossiê Barra Grande - documentos/pareceres/cartas.
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Observatório Sócio-Ambiental de Barragens
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Media Links

Video about Barra Grande Dam Conflict
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Photo shoots of the deforested area (before and after the flood), endangered species, popular mobilizations and affected people
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Other Documents

application of the lawsuit Full text of the application of the public civil action lawsuit
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application of the lawsuit Full text of the application of the public civil action lawsuit
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application of the lawsuit Full text of the application of the public civil action lawsuit
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EIA/Rima The Environmental Impact Assessment and its Environmental Impact Report
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Meta Information
ContributorMichel Fernandes da Rosa
Last update26/05/2014