Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, Para, Brasil

A gigantic hydroelectric dam, for which more earth needs to be dug than was moved to build the Panama Canal, is now partly operational at the heart of the indigenous Brazilian Amazon


Belo Monte is a gigantic hyroelectric project on the Xingú River, under construction since 2011 and partly operational since 2015. Til date (begin of 2019), it is still only partly operating. When completed, it will be the third largest hydroelectric producer in the world, with its installed capacity at 11.233 MW. According to the government, the project will cost over US$13 billion. The project is owned by a consortium called Norte Energia, mostly owned by the government, and funded primarily by BNDES. Mining giant Vale owns around 5% of it.

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Basic Data
NameBelo Monte hydroelectric dam, Para, Brasil
ProvincePara state
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsBelo Monte comprises:

Two dams — one to house the turbines, and another with floodgates to restore the remaining flow to the lower Xingu River

Two reservoirs — one in the Xingu riverbed, and the other on dry land

516 sq km would be flooded, but in all 1,522 sq km would be affected

One massive canal — 500 meters wide, and a series of dykes to transfer the water from the Xingu to the artificial canals

20,000–40,000 to be displaced (some estimate up to 50,000 in the long run)

Cost: according to the government it is around US$ 13 billion, but some estimate it will be over US$16 billion.

For details on investments up to 2017, see Banktrack [5]
Project Area (in hectares)150,000 [1]
Level of Investment (in USD)13,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population20,000-50,000
Start Date1975
Company Names or State EnterprisesNorte Energia Consortium from Brazil - builds and operates
Centrais Elétricas do Norte do Brasil S/A (Eletronorte) from Brazil
Alstom from France - Alstom signed a EUR 500 million contract with Norte Energia to provide power equipment. In February 2014 it was negotiating a contract to deliver equipment for the transmission lines. [5]
Constructura Andrade Gutierrez S.A. (AG) from Brazil - Andrade Gutierrez is part of the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM).
Andritz Group from Austria
Arcadis from Norway - Arcadis has signed a deal worth USD 146 million with Norte Energia S.A. to provide owner’s engineering services. The Norway-based consulting, design, engineering and management services company will carry out its work via its Brazilian subsidiary, Arcadis Logos, and joins Themag, Concremat and Engecorps as part of a consortium.
Camargo Corrêa S.A from Brazil - Camargo Corrêa is part of the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM).
Companhia Energética de Minas Gerais (CEMIG) from Brazil - Cemig and Light hold a 9.77% stake in the Norte Energia Consortium under the name Amazônia. Companhia Hidro Eletrica do Sao Francisco (CHESF) Brazil CHESF holds a 15% stake in the Norte Energia Consortium.
Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras S/A (Eletrobrás) from Brazil - Eletrobras holds a 15% stake in the Norte Energia Consortium. Eletronorte Brazil Eletronorte holds a 19.98% stake in the Norte Energia Consortium.
Iberdrola from Spain
Odebrecht from Brazil
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank - The World Bank disbursed an Environmental Development Policy Loan (SEM DPL) to the government of Brazil, with multiple objectives. One of them was to institute a social and environmental safeguards policy at BNDES, including a sectoral policy on dams. The sectoral policy was never adopted by the board, and BNDES never instituted a broad safeguards policy. Instead, the bank only adopted three sectoral policies on cattle, sugar-alcohol, and emissions from thermoelectric plants [5]
Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersIndigenous groups (Munduruku in the Tapajós and Xikrin, Araras, Kayapós and Jurunas in the Xingú), Movimento dos Atingidos por Represas (MAB), Movimiento Xingú Vivo para Siempre (MXVPS), Survival International, Amazon Watch, CPTnacional, Instituto Socioambiental, Brazilian Indigenous Communities Organization (APIB), International Rivers, Amigos da Terra-Amazonia Brasileira, FASE, CIMI, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
indigenous groups include Juruna, Xikrín, Arara, Xipaia, Kuruaya and Kayapó, among others
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
La oposición al proyecto es también muy mediatizada gracias al jefe aborigen Raoni, al cantante Sting o al realizador James Cameron.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite all evidences of impacts, the project was built and generated severe corruption, violence and distress.

En enero de 2011 se aprobó una Licencia Parcial de Instalación del proyecto ignorando las advertencias del Fiscal Federal, ya que en la legislación brasileña no existe esa categoría de licencia o autorización. Las obras de construcción de los diques comenzaron en junio de 2011. Mientras tanto se han presentado más de una docena de demandas contra el proyecto por asociaciones civiles y por abogados públicos. Una demanda sobre la obligación de consulta a los pueblos indígenas afectados estaba espera de juicio en la Corte Suprema, ya que no se han realizado los procedimientos de consultas previas y consentimiento a los indígenas de la zona como prescribe la Constitución y los acuerdos internacionales firmados. Actualmente el proyecto se encuentra en operación pero solo parcialmente.
Sources and Materials

Hall, A., & Branford, S. (2012). Development, dams and Dilma: the saga of Belo Monte. Critical Sociology, 38(6), 851-862.
[click to view]

de Sousa Júnior, W. C., & Reid, J. (2010). Uncertainties in Amazon hydropower development: Risk scenarios and environmental issues around the Belo Monte dam. Water Alternatives, 3(2).
[click to view]

Fearnside, PM (2002) Greenhouse gas emissions from a hydroelectric reservoir (Brazil’s Tucuruí dam) and the energy implications. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 133(1/4): 69–96.

[4] PAINEL DE ESPECIALISTAS, 2009. Análise Crítica do Estudo de Impacto Ambiental do Aproveitamento Hidrelétrico de Belo Monte
[click to view]

[3] Estudio de Impacto Ambiental (EIA) de Belo Monte
[click to view]

[2] Fearnside, P. M. (2006). Dams in the Amazon: Belo Monte and Brazil’s hydroelectric development of the Xingu River Basin. Environmental management, 38(1), 16.
[click to view]

[9] A expulsão de ribeirinhos em Belo Monte: relatório da SBPC

Sônia Barbosa Magalhães, Manuela Carneiro da Cunha

(Orgs.). – São Paulo: SBPC, 2017.

448 p. : il.
[click to view]


[6] The Guardian -

Brazil: insider claims Rousseff coalition took funds from Belo Monte mega-dam


Fri 8 Apr 2016 20.51 BST
[click to view]

[1] Página de International Rivers dedicada a Belo Monte
[click to view]

[5] Banktrack

Belo Monte dam Brazil
[click to view]

Tuira Kayapó: The woman who fought back a dam
[click to view]

[11] Inter-American Commission urges Brazil to address damages to indigenous peoples caused by Belo Monte Dam
[click to view]

[7] Mongabay - Displaced by Brazil’s giant Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, ‘river people’ reoccupy reservoir

by Maximo Anderson on 13 March 201
[click to view]

[8] Desinformemonos - Belo Monte: El Bello Monstruo de la biodiversidad y de las poblaciones tradicionales de la Amazonia

Texto Christiane Peres Fotos Verena Glass Y Antonio Cruz/ABr Traducción: Waldo Lao Fuentes Sánchez

1 septiembre 2010
[click to view]

[10] MAB - Consorcio de Belo Monte prohíbe a los afectados por represas manifestarse

[click to view]

[12] Mongabay - Belo Monte dam Xingu River Management Plan violates human rights: finding

by Max Nathanson on 10 December 2018
[click to view]

[13] International Rivers fact sheet for Belo Monte
[click to view]

Media Links

Documentário ‘Belo Monte: Depois da Inundação’, by Todd Southgate – Brent
[click to view]

Other Documents

Map of Belo Monte Source:
[click to view]

Tuíra protesting against Eletronorte director, 1989 A índia Tuíra, que ficou conhecida em 1989 por encostar um facão no rosto do então diretor da Eletronorte, José Antonio Muniz Lopes
[click to view]

Sting and Raoni kayapó leader
[click to view]

Kayapo indigenous leader Raoni Kayapo indigenous leader Raoni displays an international petition against the Belo Monte dam which he took to Europe seeking support. In 2015, charges were made against the Brazilian government and Norte Energia, the construction consortium, accusing both of committing ethnocide against seven Xingu River indigenous groups. Photo by Gert-Peter Bruch licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
[click to view]

Protest of the Kayapó tribes A native from the Caiapo tribe holds a poster of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during a protest against the construction of Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in front of the National Congress, in Brasilia, in February. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/Getty, Credit: The Guardian
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorDaniela Del Bene, ICTA-UAB
Last update25/02/2019