Posted at 03:27 PM ET, 06/01/2011

Brazil approves Belo Monte dam, despite fierce opposition


Chief Raoni weeps after hearing that the Belo Monte dam will be built. (Photo courtesy of the Support Chief Raoni Facepook page)

Chief Raoni of the Kayapo people, who live along the Xingu River in the Para state of Brazil, wept openly this week after hearing that the Brazilian government gave the go ahead to begin building a dam that could displace as many as 40,000 people.

Brazil’s environmental protection agency, which approved the Belo Monte dam, said its construction will create jobs and help the country keep up with its growing energy needs. The dam has been in the works for over three decades. Builders need one last permit to begin work on 11,000-megawatt Belo Monte, which would be the world’s third-largest dam.

The project has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists, the indigenous people and others who live in the the surrounding area and even some celebrities. Environmentalists say the dam will prompt more development, flood 200 square miles of forest and harm the people and animals who live there. Raoni told the BBC in February, “We don't want Belo Monte because it will destroy our rivers, our jungle and our way of life.” More than half a million people signed a petition by nonprofit Amazon Watch to block the dam

British musician Sting, who protested the dam’s construction in 1989, said he stands “in solidarity with the indigenous people who are trying to stop it.”

“All of the reasons I fought against it 20 years ago are still there,” he told the Telegraph. “It will destroy an entire river system and destroy the lives and culture of the people who live there and have lived there for thousands of years,”

Watch director James Cameron discuss why he opposes building the dam:

By  |  03:27 PM ET, 06/01/2011

 
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