Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Tourism to fill the employment gap after the completion of the Belo Monte dam in Brazil


Biodiversity and technology in the growing communities in the Amazonian rain forest could greatly help tourism and conserve natural resources.

With the construction of the hydroelectric dam nearing completion, the case of sustainable biodiversity as one of the better models for local development is doing the rounds.
“The wealth of the forest and traditional knowledge are the future of the region, if they are supported by new forms of financing and technological development,” said the local coordinator from the Socio Environmental Institute, Marcelo Salazar
“There is still forest cover in 90% of that area, and the rainforest offers food, rubber, medicinal and cosmetic products, besides the tourism potential, with the knowledge of 11 indigenous groups and many ‘extractive’ workers (who harvest jungle fruits and nuts or collect rubber, for example),” he said further.
The due date for the completion of the dam is 2019. By 2016, 80% of the required structure is scheduled to be in place. During the final phases, only a few workers are required, since only the turbines, that will generate the electricity, need assembling. As a result scores of people will be out of jobs and the local economies of surrounding the region will take a hit.
Unemployment is likely to be high, many businesses which had hopes of taking off, during the boom years of the construction, will see their hopes fade away.
“Many people hoped to get rich, and that didn’t happen,” said Vilmar Soares, the proprietor of a desktop publishing company. Interestingly Vilmar is also the founder of Fort Xingú: a movement founded, in the boom years, by local business houses in support of the dam.
“Around 4,000 outsiders working on Belo Monte are living in Altamira, and that drove up rents and boosted the construction business. But people who built real estate property on the basis of loans will also lose out,” he said with a sigh. He predicts that rent rates will collapse.
For Soares, it is a different story: a savvy businessman, he has been in the graphic design industry for the last 33 years. He foresaw the temporary nature of procuring orders from the consortium which has the license to run this hydropower plants and invested his hard earned money elsewhere.
“The depression here, however, will be less severe than in the case of other hydroelectric dams, because there was a degree of planning, and debates were held to get the company to invest in specific areas like health, education, sanitation and development projects,” said Soares.
The vicar of the local Catholic Church has a different angle. It had opposed the creation of the dam. Vandeir Alves, the vicar, said  “The future is one of growing unemployment, violent crime levels have gone up and will keep doing so, with 3.5 deaths a week and many people injured by bullets and knives ending up in the hospital, and traffic is total chaos.”
As per the Altamira Defence Forum, an umbrella group which houses 60 associations such as ISA, trade unions and the likes, “The dreams of a boom [have] turned into a nightmare”. José de Anchieta dos Santos, Norte Energía’s director of socio-environmental affairs, presents a another perspective with regard to the acquisition of the Operating License (OL) after which it is set to go operational.
“Once the OL has been granted, the confusion will be over,” says José.
Although the OL is scheduled to be given, however as per the FDA it could be delayed since several conditions attached to the license have not been met. One of them being providing the city with basic sanitation, resettling and relocating the affected businesses and families from the area that will be flooded.
The lack of sewage treatment and urban planning is telling and goes to prove that its critics are right.
“It takes time; in five years Altamira will be a different city,” said Anchieta. It will not only have the required sanitation facilities, but it will also have new schools, health clinics, parks, hospitals and beaches along the river. It will attract eco-tourists, and the city will develop progressively, with the surrounding rainforest and rivers being major attractions.
Progress in Vitoria Do Xingu – a nearby town
In a nearby town called Vitoria do Xingu, which houses 17,000 people, sanitation systems have been created as well as a tourism secretariat and tourists routes. Tourists are flocking to see the Belo Monte power plant, a feat of engineering which generates 11,000 megawatts of electricity.
Tourists can enjoy natural waterfalls which aren’t affected by the dam, they can canoe the rapids, go caving and trek forest paths as per municipal secretary Joel Yamanaca.
The local government will provide incentives for the growth of acquaculture, dairy industry, horticulture, the production of cassava flour and poultry farming. “Unemployment will only affect unskilled workers,” he said.
As for Altamira, which has a population eight times the size of Vitoria do Xingu, it will have more shops, restaurants and hotels. Already companies such as Wickbold, a baking good company, are sourcing their raw materials, such as cashews, from the local forest. With the right law, biodiversity and technology, Altamira could become one of the success stories of Brazil which bases itself on the biodiversity of the Amazonian rainforest.