Clinton Urges Consideration of Alternatives to New Dams in the Amazon

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Former U.S. president cites indigenous rights and calls on Brazil to lead the world in the 21st century in forging a sustainable energy path.

“>Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River – shared the stage with former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California experience in terms of energy policy.

“The most important thing is to raise awareness in Brazil that Belo Monte is not a good solution for meeting the country’s energy needs – given its poor economic and the moral and ethical issues, to say nothing of its enormous toll on indigenous peoples and other inhabitants of the Xingu River. The Brazilian taxpayers could save billions by cancelling the dam and investing in truly renewable energy,” said Cameron at a press conference he held with indigenous leaders from the Xingu region and with energy and environmental experts.

Reflecting on Clinton’s speech, Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch’s Executive Director who accompanied James Cameron on his trip to Brazil said: “President Clinton’s remarks will strengthen the voices from within Brazil who are pushing for greener alternatives such as wind and solar. Large dams in tropical rainforests are not green energy and when you factor in that less than 1.5% of Brazil’s energy matrix comes from wind and solar, Brazil has a long way to go to be a leader in sustainable energy.”

“Clinton’s appeal that Brazil lead the world into a clean energy future was compelling and timely, strengthening our attempts to influence the government,” said Antonia Melo, leader of the Xingu Alive Forever movement. “It is a major challenge for the people of the Amazon to convince the government to invest in clean and sustainable alternatives like wind and solar. We hope that President Dilma will see the opportunity for leadership here and rethink her current energy plan where some 70 large dams are planned for the Amazon over the next two decades.”

The risky US$17 billion Belo Monte Dam would be the world’s third largest dam and would divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. Its reservoirs would flood more than 120,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace between 20,000 and 40,000 people and generate vast quantities of methane – a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent than CO2. A partial installation license was issued for the dam project in late January despite the dam building consortium’s failure to meet dozens of environmental and social pre-conditions.

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