Gender-Differentiated Impacts of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam on Downstream Fishers in the Brazilian Amazon
The Belo Monte Hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon will be the third largest dam in the world in power generating capacity (11 GW). Its construction has brought negative socioeconomic and environmental impacts for local fishers that far outweigh the benefits. We used a qualitative case study approach to explore perceptions among fishers in a community downstream from the dam of the impact of Belo Monte on their livelihoods and their fisheries. We found that fishers, who, although they were not displaced were neither consulted nor compensated, have been severely impacted by the dam, and that fishermen and fisherwomen are differentially affected. More attention needs to be given to downstream communities and the impacts they experience.
KeywordsHydroelectric dams Socio-ecological impacts Downstream communities Gender Amazon fishers Xingu River Brazil
We are thankful for the guidance Dr. Kimberly Chung provided throughout different stages of this research. We also wish to thank Prof. Miqueias Calvi for his assistance during the research, especially during the fieldwork. Many thanks to Natalia Ocampo who helped with the coding book validation. We greatly appreciate comments from Rebecca Minardi on an early version of this manuscript. Camila Farias provided invaluable help as a research assistant in the field and transcribing the interviews. Nan Li helped us developing the maps. We wish to thank the members of Vila Nova for their warm reception and their openness to sharing their experiences during fieldwork. We stand in awe of their courage under difficult circumstances.
More importantly, the opinions expressed in this paper belong solely to the authors, and should not be attributed to any of the above, or to the funding sources.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was deemed exempt, category 2 research by the Internal Review Board on Human Subjects (IRB No. IRB# ×16-729e) at Michigan State University. Informed consent was used to ensure voluntary participation and confidentiality.
- Abril, G., Guérin, F., Richard, S., Delmas, R., Galy-Lacaux, C., Gosse, P., et al (2005). Carbon Dioxide and Methane Emissions and the Carbon Budget of a 10-Year Old Tropical Reservoir (Petit Saut, French Guiana). Global Biogeochemical Cycles 19(4): n/a–n/a. https://doi.org/10.1029/2005GB002457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Adams, W. M. (2009). Green Development 3rd edition: Environment and Sustainability in a Developing World.Google Scholar
- Alho, C., Reis, R. E., and Aquino, P. P. U. (2015). Amazonian Freshwater Habitats Experiencing Environmental and Socioeconomic Threats Affecting Subsistence Fisheries. Ambio: 412–425. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-014-0610-z.
- Arvizu, D., Bruckner, H., Chum, O., Edenhofer, S., Estefen, A., Faaij, M., … Zwickel, T. (2011). Technical Summary. (O. Edenhofer, R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, K. Seyboth, P. Eickemeier, P. Matschoss, … C. Von Stechow, Eds.), IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York: Cambridge University Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.49-6309
- Bartle, A. (2002). Hydropower potential and development activities. Energy Policy 30(14): 1231–1239. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0301-4215(02)00084-8
- Bayley, P. B., and Petrere, M. (1989). Amazon Fisheries: Assessment Methods, Current Status and Management Options. Canadian Special Publication in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 106: 385–398.Google Scholar
- Bechtel, J. D. (2010). Gender, Poverty and the Conservation of Biodiversity. A review of Issues and Opportunities. MacArthur Foundation Conservation White Paper Series. Retrieved from http://production.macfound.org/media/files/CSD_GENDER_WHITE_PAPER.pdf
- Bernard, H. R. (1995). Research Methods in Antropology, AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek.Google Scholar
- Boanada Fuchs, V. (2016). Blaming the weather, blaming the people: Socio-environmental governance and a crisis attitude in the brazilian electricity sector. Ambiente & Sociedade 19(2): 221–246. https://doi.org/10.1590/1809-4422ASOC0260R1V1922016
- Dean, W. (1987). Brazil and the Struggle for Rubber: a Study in Environmental History. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- EIA. (2015). Brazil. International Energy Data and Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis_includes/countries_long/Brazil/brazil.pdf
- Fan, H., He, D., & Wang, H. (2015). Environmental consequences of damming the mainstream Lancang-Mekong River: A review. Earth-Science Reviews 146(2): 77–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.03.007
- Fearnside, P. M. (2015). Emissions from Tropical Hydropower and the IPCC. Environmental Science & Policy, 50(Table 1), 225–239. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2015.03.002
- Frausin, V., Fraser, J. A., Narmah, W., Lahai, M. K., Winnebah, T. R. A., Fairhead, J., and Leach, M. (2014). “God made the Soil, but we made it Fertile”: Gender, Knowledge, and Practice in the Formation and use of African Dark Earths in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Human Ecology 42(5): 695–710. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9686-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Galvao, E. (1955). Santos e Visagens. Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil: Companhia Editora Nacional.Google Scholar
- Grisotti, M. (2016). The construction of health causal relations in the belo monte dam context. Ambiente & Sociedade 19(2): 287–304. https://doi.org/10.1590/1809-4422ASOC0252V1922016
- Haraway, D. (1991). Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The reinvention of nature. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
- IEA (2015). IEA Statistics: Renewables Information, France, Paris.Google Scholar
- IHA. (2003). The Role of Hydropower in Sustainable Development. IHA White Paper (Vol. 13). 1–140Google Scholar
- IHA. (2015). 2015 Hydropower Status Report.Google Scholar
- IPCC. (2014). Mitigation of Climate Change - Working Group III Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (O. Edenhofer, R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, J. C. Minx, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, … T. Zwickel, Eds.). United Kingdom and New York, USA, USA: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://report.mitigation2014.org/spm/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers_approved.pdf
- Junk, W. J., & Mello, J. a. S. N. De. (1990). Impactos ecológicos das represas hidrelétricas na bacia amazônica brasileira. Estudos Avançados 4(8): 126–143. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-40141990000100010
- Kebe, M. (2009). Taking the Contribution of Fisheries into Account in Development Policy. In Å. Barklund (Ed.), Fisheries, Sustainablility and Development (pp. 365–376). Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA).Google Scholar
- Lahiri-Dutt, K. (2012). Large Dams and Changes in an Agrarian Society: Gendering the Impacts of Damodar Valley Corporation in Eastern India. Water Alternatives 5(2): 529.Google Scholar
- Marques, J. G. (2001). Pescando Pescadores: Ciência y etnociência em uma perspectiva ecológica (2da. Ediçã). Sao Paulo: Núcleo de apoio à pesquisa sobre populações humanas e áreas úmidas brasileiras, USP.Google Scholar
- Miles, M., Huberman, A. M., and Saldaña, A. (2014). Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook, SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
- Moran, E. F. (1974). The Adaptive System of the Amazonian Caboclo. In Wagley, C. (ed.), Man in the Amazon, University of Florida Press, Gainesville, pp. 136–159.Google Scholar
- Moran, E. F. (2016). Roads and Dams: Infrastructure-Driven Transformations in the Brazilian Amazon. Ambiente & Sociedade 2016, XIX, 207–220. https://doi.org/10.1590/1809-4422ASOC256V1922016
- REN21. (2015). Renewables 2015 Global Status Report. Annual Reporting of Renewables: Ten years of excellence. Paris. Retrieved from http://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/REN12-GSR2015_Onlinebook_low_nolinks.pdf
- Silvano, Juras, A., & Begossi, A. (2005). Clean Energy and Poor People: Ecological Impacts of Hydroelectric Dams on Fish and Fishermen in the Amazon Rainforest. Energy, Environment, Ecosystems, Development and Landscape Architecture, 139–147.Google Scholar
- Smith, N. (1981). Man, Fishes, and the Amazon, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
- Soito, J. L. D. S., & Freitas, M. a V. (2011). Amazon and the expansion of hydropower in Brazil: Vulnerability, impacts and possibilities for adaptation to global climate change. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 15(6): 3165–3177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2011.04.006
- Sousa Junior, W. C., and Reid, J. (2010). Uncertainties in Amazon Hydropower Development: Risk Scenarios and Environmental Issues Around the Belo Monte Dam. Water Alternatives 3(2): 249–268 Retrieved from http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-77956637011&partnerID=tZOtx3y1.Google Scholar
- Stickler, C. M., Coe, M. T., Costa, M. H., Nepstad, D. C., McGrath, D. G., Dias, L. C. P., et al (2013). Dependence of Hydropower Generation on Forests in the Amazon Basin at Local to Regional Scales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110(23): 9601–9606. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215331110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sunderland, T., Achdiawan, R., Angelsen, A., Babigumira, R., Ickowitz, A., Paumgarten, F., et al (2014). Challenging Perceptions about Men, Women, and Forest Product Use: A Global Comparative Study. World Development 64(S1): S56–S66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2014.03.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Wagley, C. (1953). Amazon Town. A Study of Man in the Tropics, Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
- WCD. (2000). Dams and Development: a New Framework for Decision-Making. The Report of the World Comission on Dams (Vol. 23). London. doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/GCO.0b013e3283432017
- Witkoski, A. C. (2010). Terras, Florestas e Águas de Trabalho. Os Camponeses Amazônicos e formas de uso de seus recursos naturais. (A. C. Witkoski, Ed.). São Paulo: Annablume.Google Scholar
- Yüksel, I. (2009). Dams and Hydropower for Sustainable Development. Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy 4(1): 100–110. https://doi.org/10.1080/15567240701425808