UPDATE – Brazil prosecutors file to block 3,300-MW Jirau

Brazilian federal and state prosecutors have filed with the federal environmental agency, recommending the agency suspend the installation license of the 3,300-MW Jirau hydroelectric project on Brazil’s Madeira River.

The federal prosecution service and the state prosecution service of Rondonia State filed the action with Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente (Ibama) seeking to prevent development consortium Consorcio Energia Sustentavel do Brasil (ESBR) from building Jirau.

The lawyers argued that ESBR changed the location of the construction of two cofferdams and had deforested areas without authorization from Ibama.

Ibama must assess the recommendation before deciding whether to act.

In March, Rondonia State’s environmental agency suspended its construction authorization for Jirau, declaring the relocation of the proposed project would flood an environmental conservation area. (HNN 3/10/09) However, Rondonia’s environmental development secretary said the suspension by Secretaria de Desenvolvimento Ambiental (Sedam) would not halt preparatory work at the project.

Brazil’s national water agency, Agencia Nacional de Aguas (ANA), gave approval April 29 to construction of the project. (HNN 5/1/09) ANA said its directors examined a controversial change in project location, nine kilometers downstream from the original site. The agency declared the change had no effect on the multiple uses of the Madeira such as electricity generation, navigation, irrigation, and water supply.

To ensure multiple uses of the river, ANA said it imposed conditions on ESBR, which includes Suez Energy South America Participacoes Ltda.; Eletrosul Centrais Eletricas S/A; Companhia Hidro Eletrica do Sao Francisco (CHESF); and Camargo Correa Investimentos em Infra-Estrutura S/A.

The agency said ESBR had 120 days to present the basic design of the project’s navigation lock and a program of monitoring of the hydro project for flow, water levels, water quality, and sediment. ESBR has 12 months to submit details of the effect of siltation and backwater on water uses.

In 2008, ANA authorized construction of a caisson, a watertight chamber for underwater work on the project, as well as withdrawal of water to meet needs of the initial works. At that time, ANA President Jose Machado said a final license for the work would depend on presentation of a project for construction of ship locks.

Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva laid the cornerstone March 12 in a ceremony to mark beginning of construction of the project. (HNN 3/17/09)


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