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Published April 15, 2010 06:25 AM

Brazil suspends Amazon dam project

A Brazilian judge on Wednesday suspended the preliminary license for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, a controversial project in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, citing "danger of irreparable harm," reports the Amazon Watch, an NGO that has been campaigning on the issue. The move comes just days after a high-profile visit by James Cameron, director of the box office hit Avatar, and Sigourney Weaver, one of the stars of Avatar, to indigenous communities potentially affected by the dam.

Judge Antonio Carlos de Almeida Campelo also cancelled the construction auction for the project scheduled for April 20 and ruled that IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, refrain from issuing a new license for the project.

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"It remains proven, unequivocally, that Belo Monte's plant will exploit the hydroelectric potential of areas occupied by Indigenous people who would be directly affected by the construction and development of the project," wrote the judge in the decision.

The judge also warned that "while merits of this complaint have not been judged," companies involved in the project could be prosecuted for "environmental crime."

Last week Cameron and Weaver traveled to Brazil for a visit indigenous communities that would be affected by the project, which could flood 500 square kilometers of pristine rainforest, force the relocation of some 12,000 people, and block migration of important fish species. When running a full capacity, the 11,000 megawatt dam could generate electricity for up 23 million homes in Brazil. The dam, which when completed would be the world's third-largest, would cost $12-17 billion.

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