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In Earth Day setback, Brazil OKs dam that will flood swath of Amazon

On the eve of Earth Day, Brazil awarded a $10 billion contract for what will be the world's third-largest dam. Brazil says it will meet urgent energy needs, while critics say it will displace thousands of people and profoundly endanger wildlife.

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Deforestation is also a concern, and the dam will release large quantities of methane gas, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide, the review said. Some opponents also claim that the dam does not make economic sense, given that its generating capacity will be cut by two-thirds during the dry season.

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Hollywood gets involved

Even Hollywood has gotten involved. Avatar director James Cameron met Indians at the site in March and asked President Lula to consider shelving the plan. Cameron’s involvement provoked shouts of American imperialism and awakened age old fears inside Brazil that outsiders want to seize control of the Amazon.

Lula said Brazil did not need advice from foreigners and declared, “No one is more worried about protecting Amazônia and the Indians than we are.”

An enthusiastic proponent of economic growth, Lula pointed out that hydropower is cleaner than many alternatives. His $500 billion infrastructure plan contains a blueprint to build another dozen dams in the Amazon basin.

Development specialists agreed that, with the Brazilian economy growing quickly, the country will have to find new ways of generating power.

“It’s obvious that the potential of the Amazon has to be exploited, it’s not a garden, it’s a place where people live, with responsibilities and compensations,” Luiz Pinguelli Rosa, an infrastructure specialist, told the O Globo newspaper.

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