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Activists protest dam project in Amazon basin of Brazil

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Residents affected by the Belo Monte dam protest by spelling out "Pare Belo Monte," meaning "Stop Belo Monte," at the Belo Monte construction site on June 15, 2012. Activists, indigenous people, fishermen and coastal community members removed a strip of earth to restore the flow of the Xingu River as a protest against the construction near Altamira, Brazil.

By Mario Tama, Getty Images
Belo Monte will be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric project and will displace up to 20,000 people while diverting the Xingu River and flooding as much as 230 square miles of rainforest. The controversial project is one of around 60 hydroelectric projects Brazil has planned in the Amazon to generate electricity for a rapidly expanding economy. The Brazilian Amazon, home to 60 percent of the world’s largest forest and 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen, remains threatened by rapid development.

The Amazon is currently populated by over 20 million people and challenged by deforestation, agriculture, mining, a governmental dam building spree, illegal land speculation including the occupation of forest reserves on indigenous land.

Over 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of participants and protesters will descend on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, later this month for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.


Activists dig on the barrier of a construction site for the Belo Monte Dam project at Vitoria do Xingu, near Altamira Brazil on June 15, 2012.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

A woman prepares food on the Xingu River near the site where the Belo Monte dam complex is under construction. The project will displace up to 20,000 people.

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