Dilma Rousseff, a Workers’ Party member who won Brazil’s presidency in 2010, says that the country needs more electricity and that the best way to get it is by damming rivers in the Amazon. Brazil’s gross domestic product grew 51 percent from 2002 to 2011.
And the country needs to increase generation by 55 percent by 2020 to keep up with demand, according to the government’s Energy Research Agency.
Rousseff has been working on a massive buildup of power plants since her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, named her energy minister in 2003. Now, Brazil is spending 167.4 billion reais ($93 billion) to build 20 hydroelectric plants in the Amazon, with power lines to faraway cities.
The projects would flood swaths of rain forest 107 times the size of Manhattan. The country has plans to build about 20 more dams in the Amazon.
“We are seeing the realization of a project of critical importance — I would say strategic importance — for Brazil: the return of investment in hydroelectric plants,” Rousseff said in July at Santo Antonio, a 2.5-kilometer-long (1.6-mile-long) dam rising above the Madeira River in the western Amazon. “A work of this size is what will guarantee energy for our country to continue to grow.”