Unconstitutional Dam Construction in Brazil’s Amazon

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

In January 2012, the Brazilian Amazon rainforest was sentenced to death. The Brazilian government stepped over human rights, the rights of the indigenous people, and its own Constitution in the name of “progress.” The ongoing construction of the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River and the Madeira Dam on the Madeira River, and the proposed Sao Luis do Tapajos Dam on the Tapajos River, which has been granted a license, are part of a series of dams the government plans to build in the next twenty years, with the goal of creating a trans-Brazilian system of waterways to connect through Peru and Bolivia, to transport raw material exports to China, Japan and North America.  The government also claims that the project will reduce CO2 emissions. According to environmentalists, as a result of floods and decomposing vegetation, dam construction in the Amazon will actually increase CO2 emissions. Regardless, the Brazilian government euphemistically calls the dams “green projects.”

The dams’ impact on the life of the local people, indigenous communities, and the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest is expected to be far more devastating than the government acknowledges.  In June 2012, protesters stormed the Belo Monte, dug a channel through the earth cofferdam, chanting “Free the Xingu.” They lay on the dam, their bodies spelling out the words “Pare Belo Monte:” Stop Belo Monte.

The dams’ opponents argue that Brazil doesn’t need more hydroelectric plants; the energy needed to boost the economy could come from already existing plants in the country, including Itaipu, the second largest of the world, and another fifteen plants in the Amazon area, as well as from various alternative energy sources.



Bianca Jagger. “The Belo Monte Dam: An Environmental Crime” huffingtonpost.com. June 21, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bianca-jagger/the-belo-monte-dam-an-env_b_1614057.html#s1123492

Ministério Público Federal – Pará (Brazil). “Federal Public Prosecutors Appeal to Supreme Court to Maintain Suspension of Belo Monte.” InternationalRivers.com. Sep. 3, 2012. http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/federal-public-prosecutors-appeal-to-supreme-court-to-maintain-suspension-of-belo-monte

Ministério Público Federal – Pará (Brazil). “Federal Public Prosecutors File Lawsuit Calling for Suspension of São Luiz do Tapajós Dam.” InternationalRivers.com. Sep. 26, 2012. http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/federal-public-prosecutors-file-lawsuit-calling-for-suspension-of-s%C3%A3o-luiz-do-tapaj%C3%B3s-dam


Student researcher: Silvana Meira (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)