Aug 12th, 2008
Brazil’s environment minister has granted a license for the San Antonio Dam along the Madeira River in the Amazon basin. San Antionio is one of two dams planned for the river. The rights to build it have already been auctioned off to a group led by Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht, and construction is expected to be complete by 2012. Environmental groups have promised to keep fighting the dam.
Brazil is engaged in a massive effort to scale up its electric infastructure. The government estimates that a series of new dams in the Amazon basin will provide the majority of Brazil’s electric capacity over the next several decades — primarily for mining, metal processing and industrial agriculture industries in the Eastern Amazon. Plans for the Madiera dams recently led a group of indigenous Bolivians upstream to declare a state of emergency.
UPDATE 8-14-08: An article just published by Reuters explains another reason behind Brazil’s big dams push: “the $13 billion Jirau and Santo Antonio projects are seen as a key step in regional integration, creating a waterway that would cut transport costs for Brazil’s agriculture exports and for farming areas in Bolivia and Peru.” The article does not mention how this might fit into wider regional integration plans (IIRSA) or whether goods other than agriculture might be moved to the coast along these channels for export to the US.