A Partial Installation License for Belo Monte? Entirely Illegal

Zachary Hurwitz
IBAMA President Abelardo Bayma Azevedo has his hands full with Belo Monte
IBAMA President Abelardo Bayma Azevedo has his hands full with Belo Monte

Government-owned Eletrobras, the company calling the shots in Norte Energia, wants to obtain a "partial" installation license so that the construction team led by Odebrecht, Camargo Corrêa, and Andrade Gutierrez can begin construction on Belo Monte Dam ahead of schedule. However, the public prosecutor of the state of Pará has warned that granting such a partial license is illegal.  It's illegal in at least two ways: first, because Brazilian legislation does not legally recognize the concept of "partial license," in any sector.  And second, because Norte Energia is zero for 40 on fulfilling the mitigation conditions required by IBAMA for the granting of an installation license for Belo Monte.

This is the second time such an illegal procedure has been requested to build a dam in the Brazilian Amazon. Norte Energia, S.A. is attempting to piggyback on the precedent established by Madeira Energia, S.A. and Enersus, S.A. in 2008, when the two consortia illegally began construction on the Santo Antônio and Jirau dams on the Madeira River after having fulfilled only 13 of the 32 conditions tied to the provisional environmental license for those dams.

The excuse given in each case, in 2008 and now, is that "anticipating" the timeline of construction allows the companies to build before the rainy season starts as well as to increase future profits by generating electricity ahead of schedule.

But in each case, the potential for such a move to create significant social and environmental costs is great.  Among the 40 conditions that Norte Energia, S.A. has not met are the creation of plans to mitigate the impacts of Belo Monte on water supply, sewage, and health indicators in the cities of Altamira and Vitoria do Xingu; the regularization of the territorial tenure of indigenous tribes awaiting federal approval; and the establishment of a reparations mechanism for affected people, among others.

Any way you cut it, approval of a "partial" installation license for Belo Monte could prove disastrous.