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Brazil judge suspends construction of dam in Amazon rainforest

A judge in Brazil ruled on Tuesday that construction on the Belo Monte Dam must stop until local indigenous communities are allowed to voice their opinions on the environmental impact of the dam. The Brazilian government declared [BBC report] that the dam would help make Brazil more self-sufficient in energy. However, many environmental and indigenous rights groups have condemned the project [CBC report], arguing that the dam will destroy wildlife and displace thousands of residents in the Amazon. In his decision, Judge Souza Prudente ordered that the Brazilian government must consult with native communities [CNN report] before any further construction on the dam proceeds. Norte Energia [corporate website, in Portuguese], the company responsible for building the dam, can appeal the decision [Agencia Brasil report, in Portuguese] to either the Brazil Supreme Court or the Superior Court of Justice [official websites, in Portuguese]. If completed, the 11 million megawatt Belo Monte Dam [BBC report] would be the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world, behind Three Gorges Dam in China, and Itaipu Dam, which is run by Brazil and Paraguay.

Brazil [JURIST news archive] has been at the center of several recent high-profile environmental legal disputes. Earlier this month a federal court in Brazil ordered Chevron and drilling company Transocean [corporate websites] to suspend all oil drilling in Brazil [JURIST report] in the wake of two oil spills off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. In April the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Portugese] passed controversial legislation [JURIST report] over intense opposition that eases conservation rules for farmers and provides amnesty from fines for illegally clearing trees. Earlier in April a Brazilian prosecutor filed an $11 billion lawsuit against Chevron [JURIST report] relating to leaks in an oil field in Brazil. In March a Brazilian prosecutor filed criminal charges against Chevron [JURIST report] with regard to an oil spill that occurred in late 2011.

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