Brazil Builds a Series of Dams in the Amazon Rainforest


Brazil is the biggest economy in Latin America. In order to keep up industrial growth and provide electricity for its large cities the country needs more and more energy. Recently the government has approved the construction of a series of hydroelectric power plants on the rivers of the Amazon rainforest.

One of these projects, the Belo Monte Dam, is currently being built near the mouth of the Amazon River. When completed it will be the third largest hydroelectric power plant in the world – after the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Itaipu Dam, currently Brazil’s largest. For decades environmentalists have successfully blocked its construction. In 2010 the government finally gave a green light to building the dam, which will provide energy for Brazil’s mining industries.

Another giant dam is under construction on the Madeira River, one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon. When finished in 2015 50 turbines will be able to produce electricity, transporting it to the big cities in the southeastern part of the country, notably Sao Paolo.

By 2025 over a hundred new dams will be constructed in the Amazon jungle. Many of the smaller dams are to regulate water and provide energy for smaller local industries.

Brazil’s energy ministry hopes that the country can increase its energy production by more than 50 per cent. As costs for fossil fuel plants are higher, only hydroelectric energy can produce the electricity that Brazil needs in the future.

Brazil’s energy plans are not without criticism. Environmentalists argue that the rainforest is one of the world’s last natural habitats. It absorbs carbon dioxide, produces oxygen and regulates our climate. More than a fifth of the world’s freshwater comes from the Amazon basin. Those against the dams are worried about the indigenous people, who are being relocated to other areas and are forced to change their way of life. Many locals who live around the Jirau power plant complain that they cannot go hunting and fishing, as they used to.

The government, however, sees many advantages in building the power plants. They not only produce clean and efficient energy, but also provide jobs for thousands of workers. Energy experts maintain that all the dams are being constructed in an environmentally-friendly way. Relocating thousands of people to new towns and giving them new houses at government costs is a small price to pay for the rewards Brazil’s economy will get in the future.

Member of Indigenous People Protests Against the Construction of the Belo Monte Dam

Member of Indigenous People Protests Against the Construction of the Belo Monte Dam - Gert-Peter Bruch


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  • absorb = take up
  • advantage = the good side of something
  • approve = agree; to say yes
  • argue = quarrel, disagree
  • basin = area of low land with a river in the middle
  • block = not allow to happen
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals breathe out or when carbon is burned in the air
  • complain = to say that something is wrong
  • complete = finish
  • construct = build
  • currently = right now
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • economy = system by which the products of a country are produced and sold
  • efficient = not wasteful, effective
  • environmentalist = a person who worries about nature and the world around us and wants to do something about it
  • environmentally –friendly = good for nature and the world around us
  • force = have to
  • fossil fuel = oil, gas, coal; energy that comes from dead plants and animals  that lived millions of years
  • freshwater = water from lakes or rivers
  • growth = increase; becoming bigger
  • habitat = living area
  • however = but
  • hydroelectric power plant = a very big dam that blocks a river and which is used to produce energy from water power
  • increase = to go up
  • indigenous people = people who have always lived in a place
  • jungle = rainforest
  • keep up = maintain , continue
  • local = in the area
  • maintain = say
  • mining = the digging of minerals from the surface of the earth
  • ministry = government department that is in charge of special work; like the ministry of education
  • mouth = where a river flows into the sea
  • notably = especially, above all
  • oxygen = colorless gas that is in the air and which we need to breathe
  • provide = give, offer
  • recently = shortly; a short time ago
  • regulate = control
  • relocate = to move to another place in order to live and work there
  • reward = prize
  • series = many
  • tributary = a small river that flows into a larger one
  • turbine = engine that moves a wheel around in order to produce energy
  • under construction = being built