Brazil gives go-ahead to controversial dams in Amazon

Brazil has given the preliminary OK for two hydroelectric dams to be built on a major Amazon River tributary. Business leaders, who say the dams will provide much-needed energy, are impressed; greens, who see the project as a disaster waiting to happen, are depressed. Proponents say the Santo Antonio and Jirau dams could produce up to 10 percent of Brazil’s current electricity demand when completed. Opponents point out that damming the Madeira River, home to one of the most diverse fish stocks in the world, will flood hundreds of square miles of biodiverse rainforest, stir up mercury deposits in the river, and bring pollution to the pristine area along with workers and construction. Brazil’s environmental protection agency has outlined 33 restrictions that will minimize ecological damage, but critics aren’t mollified; neither is neighboring Bolivia, which fears floodwaters could reach its border. Bids must be taken and permits obtained before the project gets going. Stay tuned.