Belo Monte Dam

Picture: EarthPrint (Citizen Soil Clod) Belo Monte (1)
Plant material, soil, found objects on GFK, 100x100x10-20 cm, Betty Beier (2017)
Place of removal and date: Rainforest near Altamira (Para), Brazil, 23.06.2014: S 03°17.608, W 052°13.495
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EarthLifting in Altamira and at the river Xingu, Amazonas

The Belo Monte Dam is the third largest and, at the same time, the most controversial dam on earth and is known as the “Monster Dam”. The first turbines were put into operation on May 5, 2016, in the presence of President Dilma Roussef. Large areas of the rainforest have already sunk into the floodwaters. Farmland and villages are radically affected by the flooding. Thousands of people were forcibly displaced. The size of the flooded area is approximately the same as that of Lake Constance.

The island Arapúja is burning. Betty Beier 2015:

The Xingu River is one of the last intact river systems in Brazil. Its biodiversity is often described as breathtaking.

Even before the Great Bend (port.Volta Grande) of the Xingu River, the first dam wall is located. From here on, the river loses a substantial amount of water. Many indigenous tribes live in this river bend, whose waterways are cut off by drainage. The Xingu river and with it the source of life of the indigenous peoples are destroyed.

Belo Monte Dam Betty Beier 2014

The Belo Monte Dam is a prestigious project of the Brazilian government. Even European companies like Votiv Hydro, Alstom, Andritz, and Siemens are involved in the project. Further dams in the Amazon region are already being planned. The operating consortium is accused not only of the extensive destruction of the environment but also of grave human rights violations like ethnocide.

There have been a vast number of complaints. Even Carl Siemens (a member of the Siemens family) criticizes the company’s involvement in the Belo Monte project. Scientists fear that the deforestation of the rainforest will have negative effects on the entire global climate.

The power plant with its two reservoirs (668 square kilometers) is supposed to generate a total of 11000 megawatts of electricity.

On 18.09.2015, with the help of Amanda and members of the group “Xingo Vivo”, I salvage a clod of earth from Antonia Melo’s property, which is going to be demolished. Antônia had to vacate her house last week. She struggled against the demolition until the very end. All homes in the surrounding neighborhood had already been destroyed.

Beside her, only one neighboring family had resisted. Her house with a beautiful garden is going to fall victim to the dam this week. Antônia Melo is the coordinator of the group “Xingu Vivo Sempre” and a leading figure in the struggle against the dam on the Rio Xingu.

She published on Facebook (in free translation from Brazilian):

“To expel me from my house is another attempt to silence me. They will destroy everything but will never be able to silence me. They laugh and believe that they have defeated me. I feel sorry for them. They are the losers because they have never experienced the spirit’s silence in their lives, unlike me. “Peace” – when you are not a coward. I march on with my flag in my hand. What about those who are in the government? These corporations lull themselves into a false sense of safety. It is a monstrous crime. I will never forgive. Nature will never forgive. This is a crime without mercy. Lula and Dilma are criminals, they’re traitors, cowards.” (Antonia Melo Da Silva, 16.09.2015)

CITIZEN’S SOIL CLOD “Antônia Melo” Plant material, earth, findings acrylic on GRP, 100x100x10-20 cm, Betty Beier, (2016) Place of removal and date: property of Anatônia Melo, Altamira, Para in Brazil, 18.09.2015 S 03°12.174, W 052°12.496 Fig. right: Exhibition “Earth Lifting”, Kunstraum LOFT, Ansbach

The dam’s planning began about 40 years ago and was repeatedly postponed and suspended due to protests and caveats.

Foto: Mayra Gahla

June 23, 2014: After a long walk through the dark rainforest, Mayra and I come across an exciting soil surface. 12 opened fruit shells of Brazil nuts lie between the brace roots of a jungle tree. Below the tree, a group of locals must have been sitting on the brace roots to remove the seeds from the collected Brazil nuts. The Brazil nut trees grow along the numerous Amazon rivers. The Brazil nuts, which can also be bought here in Europe, come from wild harvesting in the rainforest because the tree cannot be cultivated.

In 2017, 15.8 million hectares of tropical forests disappeared – that is almost half the area of Germany.

Using the maps of Nasa you can observe the extreme changes caused by the Belo Monte dam, such as the detour and the severe water loss in the river bend. Not only that, but the clearings have also increased significantly, which you can see from the light green areas.

2020: According to KoBra, all turbines are to go into operation this year.

The effects:
On November 9, 2020, 150 fishermen, local residents, and indigenous people occupied the Transamazonica highway near Altamira. According to the protesters, the operator of the Norte Energia dam is not complying with the legal requirements to ensure adequate water levels during the spawning season in the “Volta Grande do Xingu” river bend cut off by the dam. Since the dam was commissioned in 2016, the spawning season has not been taken into account and disregarded. In addition, mobility by boat is limited due to the shallow water level. The effects are catastrophic, and the residents feel deprived of their source of life.

My project, “Forensics in the Amazon,” is not finished yet.