However, it has caused huge controversy ever since the first feasibility studies were carried out in the 1970s. The 516 square kilometers due to be flooded are on the Xingu River and the amount of earth and rocks to be shifted will surpass that moved in the building of the Panama Canal.
Indians from 14 different tribes live nearby. While the government says only 19,000 people will be affected, a review published last year by specialists in their respective fields said it could be as many as 40,000.
“We don’t accept the Belo Monte dam, because we understand that it is only going to bring destruction to our region,” indigenous leaders wrote in an open letter. “The way the white man is going, everything is going to be destroyed very quickly.”
Damage to the environment is also a major issue. The Xingu river basin has about four times as many species of fish as the whole of Europe, but the work will kill millions of animals and threaten extinction for some species, said Hermes Medeiros, a local ecologist on the review board.