Brazil's controversial Belo Monte hydropower plant under fire once again

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Brazil's 11.2-GW Belo Monte hydroelectric plant is once again facing pressure from a number of international organizations, who say the country's government must respond to long-standing allegations of human rights violations.

Drawing on criticism from the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), Justica Global and the Sociedade Paraense de Defena de Direto Humans (SDDH), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) began reviewing requests and petitions calling for the watchdog legal organization to open a case against Brazil in late December.

"The opening of this case is, above all, a victory for the affected communities and local social movements, who have endured all these years, and remain strong and determined in their search for justice and reparation," Justica Global representative Raphaela Lopes said.

IACHR will determine if requirements have been met to file a case against the Brazilian government for human rights violations.

"We hope and believe that now is the time for Brazil to respond comprehensively to our claims about the absence of consultation and free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities; the lack of participation and adequate assessment of environmental impact; and the forced displacement and violations of the rights to life, health, integrity and justice of indigenous peoples, riverine communities and residents of the city of Altamira," AIDA attorney Maria Jose Veramendi Villa said.

IACHR's decision to open a case against Belo Monte is only the latest in a long line of controversies that have plagued the plant throughout its development.

In addition to widespread opposition to the project, Norte Energia has faced worksite occupations, approval cancelations, worker deaths and court-ordered work stoppages.

Most recently, Brazil's Institute of the Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) denied an operating license for the plant, saying its developer, Norte Energia, had failed to meet conditions required for its approval.

Budgeted at US$26 billion, Belo Monte is being built on the Xingu River in Brazil's northern Para State and will be the world's third largest hydroelectric complex when completed. Belo Monte has a completion deadline of 2018, though Norte Energia filed a request for a construction extension this past June.

A federal court rejected a request in July from from a public prosecutor to suspend work on the project because Norte Energia was accused of failing to consult properly with aboriginal groups potentially affected by Belo Monte.

Voith Hydro, which is supplying equipment for the project, said the plant is now expected to be commissioned in 2019.

For more news from Brazil, visit here.

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