Amazon hydro plants among most polluting in the world

Aviva Imhof
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Letter to the Editor, Printed in The Financial Times

Sir, You report that the alternative to building the massive Belo Monte dam in the Amazon “might be to build more thermal coal plants” (“Brazil rejects protests and pushes ahead with Amazon power plan”, April 19). This is exactly what the Brazilian government wants people to believe, and it's not true.

Brazil has bountiful alternative energy sources. Studies have shown that by investing in energy efficiency Brazil could avoid the need for as many as 14 Belo Monte dams and save billions of dollars in the process. Brazil’s potential for electricity from sugarcane waste is about five times the average production of Belo Monte dam.

What’s more, Amazon hydro plants are some of the most polluting on the planet. Decomposing vegetation in the reservoir releases methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Belo Monte alone will be a big methane producer, but if an additional dam is built upstream – as many fear – the projects together will release as many greenhouse gases as three average-sized coal plants. Cheaper and cleaner alternatives exist; what is lacking is the Brazilian government’s political will.

Aviva Imhof,
Campaigns Director,
International Rivers,
Berkeley, CA, US

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