A court in Brazil has ruled that work may resume at a controversial dam in the Amazon jungle, after revoking its own prior order for Notre Energia S.A. to halt such construction, according to reports.
The $11-billion project at Belo Monte has long been criticized by indigenous groups and environmentalists as a hazard to the area.
Belo Monte, which the Brazilian government said is crucial to providing soaring energy demand in one of the world’s fastest growing economies, would be the third biggest dam in the world, said Agence France Presse.
Federal judge Carlos Castro Martins declared that concerns about local fishing and the natural flow of the Xingu River, among other objections raised by dam opponents, were not viable.
There are no legal grounds to justify maintaining the stoppage measure, Martins said in a statement.
Since the course of the water won't be altered, and there won't be much variation in the speed of its flow, [the dam project] won't have a major influence on the habitat of ornamental fish species used for fishing.”
However, the judge cautioned that the broader environmental impact of the dam could only be felt and analyzed once the work was completed, as the studies into its effects were only forecasts of what could happen.
In addition, the judge ruled that further work on the dam will have to abide by regulations established by the government’s Indian Affairs Department (Funai) and the National Environment Agency, Ibama.
Four months ago, the same judge Martins ordered a halt to the project, citing its negative impact on the local fisheries which are so important to the livelihood of residents. He ordered Norte Energia to refrain from building a port, using explosives, installing dikes, building canals and any other infrastructure work that would interfere with the natural flow of the Xingu River, thereby affecting local fish.
At that time, Norte Energia immediately appealed the decision.
Now, the judge’s turnabout is likely to outrage opponents of the dam.
The government has cited the dam will directly create about 20,000 jobs and that it will seek to minimized its environmental impact. However, environmentalists counter the mammoth dam will flood about 200 square miles of real estate and displace about 16,000 local people.
AFP reported that even James Cameron, the American film director who made a film “Avatar” that seems startlingly similar in its themes as the ongoing Belo Monte saga, has criticized the project.