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Brazil defends controversial dam project

February 6th, 2010

Dilma Rousseff

Brazil has defended its decision to build a hydroelectric power station in northern Para state, saying it is being initiated after taking all necessary environmental precautions.

When completed, it will be world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam after Itaipu, which Brazil shares with Paraguay, and China’s Three Gorges dam.

But environmentalists and local residents say the project will flood an area of over 500-sq-km and destroy its fragile ecosystem.

On Monday, the government authorised the construction of the 11,233 MW Belo Monte hydroelectric power station to be built on the Xingu river.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, told a press conference Thursday the government has taken all necessary precautions ahead of the bidding process, which is expected to be held next month.

The dam will be built at a cost of about $20 billion and will be completed in 2014.

Rousseff, the ruling party’s candidate in this year’s presidential election, said the government will prove that ‘it is possible to generate electricity with full respect for the environment’.

In the same press conference, Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao said the project has been under study for 20 years and stressed that electricity generation ‘demands great effort, and at times, great sacrifice’.

The minister said Belo Monte ‘is the electricity-security guarantee the country needs’ to ensure ‘its future, its economy and job creation’ and that is why ‘there will be no turning back’ on the project.

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