Last of Eden: In the Shadow of Brazil's Largest Construction Site

By on February 24, 2014
20130509 504 w112 021 Photograph by Taylor Weidman/zReportage via ZUMA Press

The largest construction site in Brazil is nowhere near the soccer stadiums being whipped up to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup: It’s a dam on the Xingu River, deep in the Amazon rainforest. The Belo Monte Dam reemerged three years ago after a first proposal foundered in the 1990s amid protests over its environmental impact. It will be the world's third-largest hydroelectric station, overshadowed by only the Itaipu Dam on Brazil's border with Paraguay and China’s Three Gorges Dam.

The dam, with a capacity to generate 11.233 megawatts of power, will come online by February 2015, according to Norte Energia, the Brazilian conglomerate of power companies, investors, and pension funds behind the project. At the peak of its construction, the project may employ 20,000 people.

The dam will divert about 80 percent of the Xingu River's flow, affecting more than 1,500 square kilometers (579 square miles) of rainforest, and will force the displacement of as many as 40,000 people, according to the San Francisco-based NGO Amazon Watch.

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