Three-Day Tour of Brazilian Amazon Leaves Avatar’s Director Ready for Activism

James CameronAvatar director James Cameron will hold a press conference on Wednesday, March 31 at 10 am at Hotel Tropical, in Manaus, capital of the Brazilian northern state of Amazonas, to report back on his three-day visit experience to the Big Bend region of the Xingu River, site of the proposed Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam project.

“I was told by my friends at Amazon Watch that the Belo Monte Dam threatens to destroy large swaths of territory in the heart of the Amazon rainforest,” stated Mr. Cameron. “I wanted to visit this area and learn more about the project.”

From March 28-30, Mr. Cameron traveled along a stretch of the Xingu River’s Big Bend (Volta Grande) region in Brazil’s Pará state to visit the forests and the communities that will be destroyed by the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam project.

If built, the dam would be third largest in the world and cost an estimated US$ 12.3 to US$ 17.5 billion. The project would divert 80% of the flow of the Xingu River along a 100 km length of the River, drying the lifeline of tens of thousands who depend on the River for their survival.

To build Belo Monte, more earth would have to be dug than was moved to build the Panama Canal. The Brazilian Government approved Belo Monte’s environmental license on February 1, despite widespread public opposition and serious questions on the dam’s economic, social, and environmental viability. Consortiums are set to bid on the project on April 20th.

Last week during his address at the International Forum on Sustainability in Manaus, Mr. Cameron expressed his concern about the project saying: “For people living along the river, as they have for millennia, the dam will end their way of life. I implore the Brazilian government, and President Lula, to reconsider this project.”

During his visit to the Xingu River, Mr. Cameron was received in the Arara indigenous village and participated in a gathering of over 100 indigenous leaders from dozens of indigenous communities along the Xingu River including Arara, Juruna, Xipaia, and Xikrin Kayapo.

He also met leaders from Brazilian civil society including Xingu Bishop Dom Erwin Kreutler and members of Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre in the town of Altamira, a third of which will be flooded by the dam.

Belo Monte would also be one of the most inefficient dams in the history of Brazil, generating only 10-30% of its 11,000 Megawatts (MW) installed capacity during the dry season, and on an annual basis average only 4,462 MW or 39% of its installed capacity.

“There are always other solutions, when good leaders put their will to a problem,” Mr. Cameron said during his address during the Manaus Forum. “A WWF Brazil study showed if Brazil were to invest a fraction of the cost of the dam in energy efficiency it could generate 14 times the energy of the Belo Monte Dam and have electricity savings of up to US$ 19 billion.”

Mr. Cameron’s visit was facilitated by the international organization Amazon Watch and Brazilian organizations the Xingu Alive Forever Movement (Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre) and the Socio-environmental Institute (Instituto Socioambiental).

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