When fully operational, Belo Monte will be the third-largest dam in the world, constructed in one of the most important ecosystems on the planet: the Amazon rainforest. It sits on the Xingu River in Pará, a state in northern Brazil. The reservoir will cover 500 square kilometers of forest and farmland—an area the size of Chicago.
For the people of the Xingu, construction of Belo Monte has meant loss of access to water, food, housing, work and transportation. At least 20,000 people have been displaced.
The government and construction consortium began to construct the dam without first consulting the people of the region, many of whom are indigenous. They flouted international human rights law, which requires the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities. Brazil also failed to comply with precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which were intended to protect the life, health, and integrity of local communities.
Though Belo Monte began operations in May 2016, it is not yet operating at full capacity. In April 2016, a federal court suspended the dam's operating license because the consortium in charge did not complete basic sanitation works in Altamira, the city nearest to and most affected by the dam.