Global Insider: Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam

On June 1, Brazil approved the construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam, a hydroelectric project in the Amazon rain forest. In an email interview, Kathryn Hochstetler, the CIGI Chair of Governance in the Americas at the University of Waterloo's Balsillie School of International Affairs, discussed the Belo Monte dam.

WPR: What is the background of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project, and what are the opposing arguments for and against the dam?

Kathryn Hochstetler: The dam was first proposed in the 1970s, but it was set aside when World Bank funding was withdrawn in the face of widespread popular opposition to the project. The project was subsequently revised, and the environmental impact assessment began in 2001. The past decade has been devoted to the licensing process and some 10 court cases, most challenging the state's failure to adequately consult indigenous and other residents impacted by the dam. On April 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States asked Brazil to suspend construction to allow for further consultation. Brazil responded that there had been ample opportunities for input and broke ties with the judicial body.

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