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Belo Monte Dam
This past April, a Brazilian federal court suspended construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the northern state of Pará. The suspension arose from concerns regarding the protection of the environment and the natural resources of the Amazon. Sanitation works in the city of Altamira must be completed before construction can resume.

Community and Forest Effects 

The dam, which was scheduled to be completed in 2019, would be one of the world’s largest hydropower plants. As of April 2017, 10 turbines are already running, with plans to build 24 in total. The budget for the entire project is 30 billion Reais, or $9.6 billion.

The construction of the Belo Monte dam is a complicated issue. Droughts in southern Brazil led to energy shortages, increasing pressure on the Brazilian government to push forward construction of the dam.

Additionally, the desire to reduce Carbon emissions is a top priority for Brazil. Yet the deforestation and destruction of local communities due to dam construction are also pressing concerns.

The Belo Monte dam complex partially blocks the Xingu River, one of the major Amazon tributaries. The blockage forced the construction of a new channel, which has inadvertently flooded thousands of acres of rain forest. It is reported that many low-lying islands have been submerged and deforestation is occurring as a result.

Hydroelectric Dam Disruption

The construction of the dam disrupted the natural flow of rivers through the rain forest. It also forced many of the local inhabitants, primarily river dwellers and fisherman, to abandon their current lifestyle and relocate to urban areas. The forced relocation and loss of current lifestyles and employments exacerbates the risk of falling into extreme poverty in an already poverty-stricken area.

There is a loss of water supply and fishing stocks in several regions of construction as well as the lack of social support and economic compensation provided for local communities, many of which have indigenous populations. This is a major catalyst for lawsuits filed by the national Indian protection agency (Funai) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Hydroelectric dams, while currently favored not only in Brazil but throughout South America, are just one of several solutions for cleaner energy. Energy options powered by the sun or wind are also potential choices that could provide clean energy and reduce carbon emissions without contributing to deforestation.

As plans for the Belo Monte dam are reworked to better address certain environmental concerns, alternative forms of energy should also be considered as a way to reduce damage caused by hydroelectric dams.

Nicole Toomey
Photo: Flickr

Ikea_SerbiaA new e-permit system in Serbia, created with the help of USAID, has shortened the process for obtaining a construction permit from 240 to 28 days. It cut out the 50-plus interactions between the investor and the government. One can register for an e-permit through the Business Register’s Agency website, the Minister of Construction website, or other government websites.

The new e-permit system will help develop Serbia’s important infrastructure as well, particularly transportation. Serbia has been called the “gateway to Europe” as it is the crossroads between Western Europe and the Middle East. The Serbian parliament is looking for private investment in this sector, and the e-permits system has made this process more efficient. In addition, the new e-permit system is allowing the Clinical Center of Serbia to build new healthcare facilities. New jobs in the construction sector lead to new jobs in other sectors. The new e-permit system has not only helped construction in Serbia, it has increased the nation’s GDP by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

One company already taking advantage of the new system is IKEA, and its investment is expected to bring 700 million euros and 300 new jobs to the nation. IKEA took advantage of the new permit process to build a new store in Belgrade. This new store is expected to open in July 2017. IKEA will be the first international business to invest in Serbia after the introduction of the country’s new construction e-permit system. The store in Belgrade is only the first store IKEA is building in Serbia, and the company is planning to invest 300 million euros in five stores across the nation.

IKEA will hopefully pave the way for more investment in Serbia, whether through creating new businesses or encouraging domestic construction in Serbia.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Largest Library in Arab World
Dubai has announced plans to open what will become the largest library in the Arab World in 2017.

At least 4.5 million books will be housed by the library, which is designed in the shape of an open book placed on an Arabic lectern.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library expects a crowd of nine million people from across the world to arrive each year.

In addition to traditional print books, the library will be stocked with two million electronic books and one million audiobooks. Visitors can also expect to see a cinema and a gallery within the library, where lectures, presentations and documentary screenings will be held. The library is expected to host 100 cultural events, Gulf Business reports.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, who announced the launch, said, “We are the leaders of civilization, duty and culture, and so we need to revive the spirit of learning and curiosity within our culture through innovative initiatives that push our boundaries.” Trade Arabia reports the launch came during the United Arab Emirates’ Year of Reading.

Sheikh Mohammed launched the Arab Reading Challenge in September 2015 to encourage 2.5 million students from 20,000 schools in Arab countries to read more. This library will promote that initiative with the aim of encouraging reading, supporting translation and documentation and preserving Arabic heritage and language.

This follows a 2012 report from the Arab Thought Foundation stating that Arab children read only “six minutes a year.”

A museum section housing various artifacts from the royal Al Maktoum family will be on display. It will also have Internet services and open reading spaces.

The library will include eight sections: children, youth, family, business, Arabic, international, popular and multimedia.

Gulf Business reports that the library hopes to translate 25,000 books into Arabic and print an additional one million books for schools and universities.

Construction work has begun on the seven-story tall building, which will be built with enough room for 2,600 visitors, reported The National.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: The National, Trade Arabia, Arabian Business, Gulf Business, 7 Days, Al Arabia News
Photo: Trade Arabia