Brazil to speed up 120 infrastructure projects

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plans to hire more people and modify environmental laws to force through 120 stalled infrastructure projects in his second term, a senior Environment Ministry official says.

“I would say the president has decided to adopt a hands-on approach in his second term,” ministry Executive Secretary Claudio Langoni said November 21.

Langoni said he attended a planning meeting with Lula and the transport and energy ministers on Friday.

“He instructed us on a series of matters that will be coordinated directly by the Casa Civil,” Langoni said, referring to the head of the president’s cabinet.

Langoni said about 20 transportation projects were on the president’s list while the rest were pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other energy projects. (HNN 11/7/06)

Action seen to advance big hydro projects

Among the projects are the 11,182-MW Belo Monte hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in Para State, 1,087-MW Estreito on the Tocantins River in Para, and 3,580-MW Santo Antonio and 3,900-MW Jirau on the Madeira River in Rondonia State.

Confusing environmental laws are blamed for stalling dozens of projects, many of them in the sensitive Amazon rain forest region.

One example is Belo Monte, a hydroelectric project in the southern Amazon that has been mired in legal battles for years. Plans for two other large dams along the Madeira River were stalled less than two weeks ago, when a judge postponed environmental hearings to give local residents more time to review the matter.

Langoni said it is social demands more than environmental laws that are stalling big projects. A lack of clear jurisdiction for issuing permits has allowed local judges to challenge many environmental reviews, he said

Environmental legislation, more Ibama staff proposed

Lula said he would submit a bill to congress before the end of the year to give national, state, or city governments the right to issue environmental licenses, depending on the impact of the project instead of whether it crosses state boundaries, Langoni said.

The president also agreed to let the national environmental licensing body, Ibama, add 300 people to its review staff of 600 to speed the process.

Lula won a second four-year term in a landslide election victory October 29 after he paid down debts, tamed inflation, and expanded aid to the poor.

But economic growth slowed to barely 3 percent per year at the end of his first term — one of the slowest rates in Latin America — partly because a lack of basic infrastructure crimped activity. Officials say Brazil needs better roads, bigger ports, new gas pipelines, and more dams if it wants to grow at the 5 percent per year Lula promised in his campaign.

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