By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Less than two months after starting partial operations, the operator of Belo Monte Hydroelectric, Norte Energia, has been ordered to pay R$15 million for moral damages caused to the population who lives in the surrounding regions.
Norte Energy, which operates Belo Monte, the world’s fourth largest hydroelectric plant located deep in the heart Brazil’s Amazon Region, has also been ordered to conclude sanitation works for the population surrounding the plant.
In April, the first of the seventeen generators at the mega-complex was put into operation, providing 611.11 megawatts to Brazil’s national energy system. By the end of May another generator was put into operation, increasing to 688.7 MW the energy generated by the Belo Monte complex. It is estimated that the dam will be fully operational by 2019.
The construction of the dam has been controversial from the start. Opponents of the dam argue that the construction displaced some 20,000 indigenous people and flooded a very large area of pristine rainforest. Communities who lived along the rivers had to leave and environmentalists say that hundreds of species of flora and fauna may have disappeared due to the construction.
The company and government officials on the other hand argued that new hydroelectric projects, especially Belo Monte, were essential to supply the country’s growing energy needs. “The implementation of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant became vital to meet Brazil’s energy demand projected for the next years,” reads a statement on Norte Energia’s webpage about the dam.
The latest court decision is expected to be appealed by the energy company and protests by environmentalists and the communities that live in the area are likely to continue as the mega energy project gradually become fully operational.