Strong opposition for Brazilian dam

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Preliminary approval given by the Brazilian government for the construction of two hydroelectric dams in the Amazon has met with strong opposition.

It is reported that the large-scale project could cost up to $15 billion, and if it goes ahead should provide sufficient power to meet 8% of Brazil s energy demands.

However, the project is meeting strong environmental opposition. It is estimated that 204 square miles of the Amazon rainforest will be flooded as a result of the dam construction, and could block the routes of migratory fishes.

The damageThirty three restrictions have been placed on the project by IBAMA, the national environmental protection agency that have given the approval. These restrictions are aimed to reduce environmental damage caused by the project.

The fear that the routes of many species of fish that migrate along the river for the purpose of reproduction would be blocked off are among the points of concern.

Among those fish at risk are the Dourada, Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii, one of the largest migratory catfish in the Amazon, as well as other species of commercial and economic importance to the region.

Blocking off the migratory routes of these fish could lead to their inability to reproduce " and as a result their extinction.

The destruction of vegetation through the flooding caused by the dams could also have a negative impact on surrounding wildlife, through the loss of the unique habitats the Amazon provides, and could even produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases as it rots.

Further issues include the real risk of an increase in malaria-carrying mosquitoes, which could inhabit the areas flooded by the dams, and the advancement of soy farming, logging and gold mining into previously undisturbed rainforest as a result of new access routes.

There are also fears that locals who rely on the rivers for their livelihood and food could also be seriously affected by the construction of the dams.

The proposalsThe proposed dams, which have been named Santo Antonio and Jirau, will be constructed on the Amazons longest tributary, the Madeira River.

The dams will provide a vital renewable energy source for Brazil, with a predicted production of 6,450 megawatts of electricity " enough to support 8% of Brazil s growing population, which currently stands at over 186 million.

The current approval of the plans is not final, however companies will soon be given the chance to put forward their bids to construct the dams " with prices expected to be in the region of between $10 and $15 billion.

Roberto Smeraldi of Friends of the Earth, Amazonia, told Mongabay that "the project aims to transform the entire western Amazon, but the government is treating it as if it had only local impacts."