Brazilian Dam Clears Hurdle

A significant hurdle in the construction of a huge dam on a tributary of the Amazon river was removed this week when Brazilian authorities approved the clearing of hundreds of acres of forest at the dam site and the construction of new roads to service the project.

Contracts for the $11 billion Belo Monte dam were granted last year amid fierce protests by the region's Indigenous people, many of whom will be displaced by rising water. The dam will produce electricity for an estimated 23 million people in Brazil's major cities, but flood roughly 200 square miles of land in the northern state of Para.

The dam will be the third largest in the world when complete.

Ibama, Brazil's environmental agency, granted the approval several weeks after the resignation of its director, Abelardo Bayma. Mr. Bayma cited personal reasons for his departure from the agency, but the Brazilian news media reported that he was pressured to leave after resisting the granting of licenses for the dam project.

Some Indigenous tribes fear that the creation of the dam on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, will harm the fish stocks on which they rely for food. The Brazilian authorities have sought to allay those concerns.

Further approvals must be gained before actual construction of the dam can begin, but the project's backers say they hope the hydroelectric plant will be operating by 2015.

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