Brazil changes tack on large dam construction

10 January 2018

Sian Crampsie

Brazil’s government has said it will no longer support the development of mega-dams in the Amazon basin, according to local newspaper O Globo.

In a surprise move, Paulo Pedrosa, Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, told O Globo that the government had been influenced by the scale and number of protests against large-scale dams in recent years, and that it had “to respect the views of society”.

Brazil’s installed electricity capacity is dominated by hydropower – much of it from large-scale projects such as the 3750 MW Jirau plant on the Madeira River – and it has the potential to build a further 50 GW of hydropower capacity by 2050.

Pedrosa indicates in the O Globo article that previous governments had masked the costs and risks of large-scale projects such as the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River. He adds that the current Temer government will not revive plans for the São Luiz do Tapajós dam project on the Tapajós River, development of which was suspended by the Rousseff administration after protests.

Environmental organization International Rivers welcomed the news. “It’s imperative that Brazil protects its rivers and vast biodiversity, which are increasingly fragile in an era of climate change,” said Kate Horner, Executive Director of International Rivers.

According to nature publication Mongabay, experts believe that the change in policy is also down to recent corruption investigations in Brazil and the depressed state of the country’s economy. It could lead to more investment in other renewable technologies in Brazil, including small-scale hydropower, the paper noted.



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