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Controversial Brazilian dam approved

The controversial plan to build an immense dam in Brazil’s rainforest has been approved by the Brazilian Government this week and neatly and unpleasantly highlights one of those awful green dilemmas – yes we need cheap, clean, sustainable electricity – and hydro electric power is perfect – but is this sensible at the cost of the destruction of a massive area of rainforest? The project will also lead to the loss of homes of indigenous people and many many species of plants and animals. The plan, which has attracted a formidable bloc of opponents including religious leaders, politicians, ecologists, indigenous Indians and Sting, will be built in Belo Monte in the northern state of Para and would be the third-biggest hydroelectric dam in the world after the Three Gorges dam in China and Brazil’s existing Itaipu dam. It will produce 11,000 Megawatts of energy for Brazil’s rapidly growing economy, with the project’s total cost estimated at 11 billion dollars. But critics have warned that the dam it will leave vast environmental devastation in its wake with some 500 square kilometres (190 square miles) of land flooded and 30,000 people living along 100 kilometres (62 miles) of the Xingu River will be displaced from their traditional territories. Critics also fear that the growth in population brought on as a new workforce arrives will lead to further deforestation. The British singer Sting brought the issue to international attention last year when he invited a high-profile Brazilian Indian, Raoni, on stage to denounce the dam during a concert in Sao Paulo. The federal government, which has already had two other dams built on the Madeira river in the Amazon, insists the new dam meets environmental criteria.