Sustainable dam development in Brazil: between global norms and local practices

Sustainable dam development in Brazil: between global norms and local practices

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da Costa, Agnes M.
Discussion Paper 14/2010

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

ISBN: 978-3-88985-522-0
Price: 6 €

The paper explores the reforms of Brazil’s environmental and resettlement policies and the influence of domestic and external actors on its dam-related legislation and practices. It analyses four hydropower plant projects: Balbina and Itaparica, built during the military regime; Cana Brava, one of the first private projects in Brazil; and Santo Antonio, a public-private project still under construction. The analysis begins with an overview of the relevance of hydropower to Brazil’s development plans since the military regime and of the central administration’s strategy of developing the country’s hydropower potential by maintaining a clean mix of energy sources for the supply of electricity. Domestic opposition to the authoritarian regime had culminated in the promulgation of a highly participation-oriented Constitution in 1988. The paper then analyses decision-making processes in Brazil’s dam-related bureaucracy and the role allotted to civil society since then. By singling out two problem areas – Environmental Impact Assessment and resettlement – the paper addresses changes in the normative framework and in practice. Case studies then consider these processes, taking Balbina as an example of a project with serious environmental consequences, and Itaparica as a case where planning and participation did not lead to satisfactory implementation in resettlement terms; Cana Brava as a project that is still trying to cope with social compensation in an innovative way; and finally Santo Antonio as a possible example for future projects as regards the involvement of affected people at earlier stages of the project cycle.

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