WHERE THE RIVER TURNS - The Dark Side of the Brazilian Belo Monte Dam
“Once this was a quiet city, now it’s a mess” kept repeating the different people that I encountered on the streets of Altamira, an isolated city in the core of the Brazilian Para State.
Since the Brazilian Government has started building the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River, one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the region and the city of Altamira have fallen into chaos. The arrival of thousands of migrants working at the Belo Monte Dam complex has added huge pressure to the region’s already weak infrastructures and social services. This process has given rise to a spike in criminality – such as widespread insecurity, increased drug use, growing cases of violence, and prostitution.
The decision to construct dams has always presented governments with the dilemma of balancing economic development with the rights of local populations and environmental protection but for the most part, development has trumped other concerns. When the Belo Monte project will be completed the dam is designed to divert 80% of the river’s flow, flooding an area of 668 square kilometers and forcing the displacement of between 20,000 – 40,000 people, the majority of those from Altamira.
This project takes into account the region where the Belo Monte complex is expanding and explores the contradictions incidental to the developments of large dams. This is part of a personal ongoing investigation in progress since 2010, over the social impacts that these massive construction processes give rise.