The Belo Monte dam, currently under construction in the heart of the Amazon basin, in the northern state of Pará, is expected to flood an area three times the size of Washington, D.C., and could displace some 20,000 people, about 1,000 people of them indigenous Brazilians. Environmental activists say the project will also dry up parts of the Xingu river, destroy large areas of rainforest and harm water and land species.
But for thousands of indigenous people living near the Xingu, the biggest impacts may be happening right now.
To offset the environmental impacts, Norte Energia – the company building the dam – has invested in social programs and housing to help the indigenous communities deal with the side effects. While the company said it has acted in partnership with indigenous groups, some community leaders say these emergency measures have caused more harm than good, creating a dependence on manufactured goods and a modern lifestyle that is destroying their traditions.