By Vittorio Hernandez

Brasilia, Brazil

In what could give a blow to Brazil's ambitious plan to boost national energy production, a Brazilian federal court ordered immediate halt of $11 billion Belo Monte hydroelectric dam's construction, saying it could affect local fishing.

In his order, Para state federal judge Carlos Eduardo Castro Martins restricted Norte Energia from "building a port, using explosives, installing dikes, building canals and any other infrastructure work that would interfere with the natural flow of the Xingu River, thereby affecting local fish."

Despite the government's assurance that it will take every effort to minimize environmental and social impact of the dam, the project had always been in controversy and attracted opposition from celebrities including Oscar-winning movie director James Cameron of "Avatar" fame. If it will be constructed, it will be the world's third biggest dam after China's Three Gorges and the Itaipu dam on Brazil-Paraguay border.

In April this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called for immediate suspension of dam's licensing process and warned that the physical integrity of indigenous people living in the Xingu River basin is threatened.

The ban construction is likely to be effective from next week when Norte Energia receives official notification. The company will be fined $109,500 per day, if it fails to comply. The judge further ruled that the construction that doesn't affect home construction and local fishing could continue.


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World - Fears Over Environmental Affects Prompt Court To Halt Mega-Dam Project | Global Viewpoint