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The Xingu River: Gaining Power Through Destruction (Rivers Special V)

This is the fifth and final installment of this Rivers Special.  If you missed any of the other articles, click the following:
Part I: Volga River
Part II: Volga Germans
Part III: Yenisei River
Part IV: ParanĂ¡ River


Xingu River
It is not the 1st or 2nd or 3rd or 4th ....longest river in Brazil, but the Xingu River is home to one of Brazil's biggest controversies.  The construction of the Belo Monte Dam - set to become the world's 3rd largest dam - is rife with political corruption, greedy businessmen, over-budget costs, and international arguments.  Many even doubt that the Xingu will be powerful enough to keep the dam at full production levels for even half a year's time. Still, these disappointments pale in comparison to the ecological and human costs.

Ecological Cost
Over 240 square miles have been flooded.  That's an area bigger than 17 different countries and about the same size as Chicago.  Much of the destroyed habitat was rain forest; of which Brazil has already lost so much. Just one example of the destruction is seen in the death of fish species. From November 2015 to February 2016, 16 million tons of fish died. (mind the links on that article, one is very NSFW.)
Human Cost
Over 30,000 people have been displaced by the dam - the majority of whom are indigenous people, such as the Juruna.  Many of the indigenous people have outright opposed the dam since the idea of its conception decades ago. Even the small numbers of native inhabitants that supported the dam's construction have changed their minds after a series of broken promises from the government. Other complaints have addressed the "unsavory" influences entering the region and the poor treatment of workers.

Full Steam Electricity Ahead
Despite broken promises, the loss of various species, open government corruption, and various local and international protests, the Belo Monte Dam is set to be fully operational by 2019.  For the Juruna and other indigenous groups, their resistance has been long and hard, but the flow of money and the power offered by the dam has been too enticing.  History repeats itself as indigenous peoples are once again thrust from their homes in the name of progress.  Of course the question begs - is this really progress? 

Thanks for reading.

Film maker James Cameron created this short message/documentary garnering support to stop the dam.

Check out this article from The Economist; which delves into the pros and cons of the dam's construction.

Want more information on countries changing natural water features? Check out our articles on the Aral Sea and the Parana River.

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