Dam approved for Amazon tributary

Brazil has approved an environmental permit for a hydroelectric dam in the Amazon, Reuters reported, citing an environmental agency official. The decision advances the Jirau dam project, on the Madeira River, which the government hopes will increase power supplies. Critics call it an ecological disaster. The river is one of the Amazon River’s longest tributaries.

The environmental agency, Ibama, granted the permit to a consortium that includes Suez, the French utilities giant. With the nearby Santo Antonio dam, the Jirau project is part of a plan to dam the Madeira to ensure that Brazil’s economy will have sufficient energy supplies over the next 10 years.

Together, the two dams will form the US$13-billion, 6,450-megawatt Madeira River Hydroelectric Complex. They also will create a waterway that would reduce shipping costs for Brazil’s agriculture exports.

Environmentalists say the Jirau dam could dramatically change the nearby ecosystem by flooding hundreds of thousands of hectares. The Brazilian government, they say, has not provided enough safeguards to prevent ecological damage.

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