SAO PAULO – Brazil’s first regional federal court suspended the environmental permit for the massive Belo Monte dam project in Amazonia and ordered an immediate halt to construction, Efe learned on Monday.
Judge Antonio de Souza Prudente’s ruling came in response to a motion from federal prosecutors.
Work on what would be the world’s third-largest dam began in March 2011, despite opposition from indigenous people, farmers, fishermen and environmental activists.
Prudente’s decision is subject to review, but a environmental permit will not be issued until the project meets all the conditions laid down in the original permit.
The judge also urged consultation with the affected indigenous communities and threatened to fine the Norte Energia consortium 500,000 reais ($228,000) per day until it complies with his ruling.
The decision likewise bars Brazilian government development bank BNDES from signing any contracts with Norte Energia until the environmental issues are adequately addressed.
The $10.6 billion hydroelectric complex will flood a 503-sq.-kilometer (195-sq.-mile) area, affecting more than 60 communities.
Due to oscillations in the flow of the Xingu River, guaranteed minimum capacity generation from the Belo Monte Dam will be 4,571 MW, or roughly 40 percent of its maximum capacity of 11,233 MW, according to government estimates.
The first regional court has already stopped work on Belo Monte on a previous occasion, in March 2012, but the Supreme Federal Tribunal overturned that ruling two months later.