More than 120 Brazilian hydro projects could be stalled by environmental assessment concerns

A Brazilian federal court has ruled that environmental permits for 126 hydropower proposals in the Upper Paraguay River Basin cannot be issued without completing environmental impact assessments, has learned.

The injunction is a response to a request from state and federal prosecutors in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso — both located in the country’s western region.

The affected region is significant in that it contains more than 200,000 square kilometers of the Pantanal wetlands, making it one of the largest wetland areas remaining in the world.

The Pantanal is home to myriad wildlife, further encouraging Brazil’s 1st Federal Court to order environmental agencies to suspend all environmental licensing processes until a strategic assessment of the entire basin can be completed.

Hydropower projects already in operation may continue generating power, but their licenses cannot be renewed until the assessment is completed, as per “clear evidence” found by the court that says new developments are being installed without observing basic protective standards.

Brazil’s 1st Federal Court did not specify when its environmental assessment will be conducted. reported in September 2011 that the 256-MW Dardanelos project being built in Mato Grosso was under fire for the potential loss of biodiversity and riverine fish communities it might cause, although the 300-MW Colider hydropower plant was given the go-ahead by Brazil’s government in January of that year. The 1,850-MW Teles Pires project is also being built on the border of Brail’s Mato Grosso and Para states.

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