Hundreds of indigenous people continue to occupy the Belo Monte Dam construction site. Sunday marked the 11th day of the occupation, which began on the heels of the Rio+20 Summit. According to International Rivers, the indigenous occupiers spent the day bathing in the Xingu, meeting and planning and ended the day with each group performing their traditional dances and songs.
Several dozen people entered the nearby Norte Energia work camp to see firsthand the destruction in the surrounding areas. They were able to travel along the newly constructed access road, see the massive construction sites including quarries and workers’ housing camps. Karangre Xikrin, an elder warrior lamented: “We are so sad, so very sad. The river will die because of Belo Monte. Everything, the turtles, the snakes, the fish, the rays, all will be finished."
For many environmentalists the Belo Monte has become a symbol of the more than 150 hydroelectric dams planned across the Amazon basin, which they fear could imperil the entire rainforest ecosystem. Although dams are often publicized as 'green' sources of energy, they disrupt natural ecosystems and take a toll on wildlife, especially freshwater species. In addition, dams built in the tropics actually expel large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane due to rotting vegetation, which is much more potent in the short-term than carbon. For its part, the Belo Monte will also flood an estimated 40,000 hectares of pristine rainforest and is expected to push some freshwater to extinction.
Last year, over half a million people worldwide signed a letter protesting the dam, making it the world's most controversial hydroelectric project.