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Duilio Diniz de Figueiredo, President, Norte Energia, Brazil

20.12.2013 / Energyboardroom

Duilio Diniz de Figueiredo, President of Norte Energia speaks about his vast experience within the energy sector and why, despite initial concerns, the environmental and social benefits of the Belo Monte project far outweigh the disadvantages to such a project. 

In the past you were already managing a Consortium, Machadinho, with major companies such as Tractebel and Camargo Correa. How do you feel your experience in that consortium is helping secure Belo Monte’s start of operations in 2015?

My 42 years of experience in the energy sector have enabled me to experience all the reforms and adaptations our country and industry has gone through. At the beginning of my career, Brasil lagged behind both in technology and innovation, but today I can proudly say that we have the most advanced technology and are capable of managing some of the most complex hydropower projects civilization has ever witnessed.

Through my professional experience, I worked 20 years with Eletrosul, part of the Eletrobras group. I also had the opportunity to work for two important consortiums including Machadinho, which gave me the experience, knowledge, and resources to meet Norte Energia’s expectations.

Belo Monte defines my appetite for new challenges and I am truly honored to be part of such a marvelous project, which is becoming a momentous part of Brazil’s legacy for future generations.

To understand the magnitude of such a project, could you give us its technical specificities? 

Belo Monte has two power plants, with the smaller one called Pimental, generating 233 MW and the principal plant generating 11,000 MW. In order not to impinge on indigenous territory we built a channel and reservoir by the Xingu River to channel the necessary water needed for smooth plant operations. This channel is 16km long, 25m deep and 210m wide. Another site of operations for the Belo Monte dam is at Bela Vista where 29 dykes will be built, varying from 80m to 2km of length for supplying/supporting the dam, and others varying from 5m to 70m in height. To give a clearer impression of the scale of this project, our two power plants are separated by 50 km of distance.

Belo Monte spreads out in the Para region and settles over various cities. Historically, what does Belo Monte represent for Brazil?

Belo Monte is located in the Para region, which is actually much bigger than many European countries. Hence, our municipal area, Altamira, is almost as large as Portugal. This region has seen development before as in the 1960’s a large highway named Transamazonica was constructed there. As this road was constructed, local communities in the area slowly migrated towards the core of this region and development changed their lives accordingly. Therefore the demographics of many southern regions changed as people moved closer to this road.

Even though 90 percent of the construction work for Belo Monte takes place in Victoria de Xingu, which has 10,000 inhabitants, it is the Altamira area, which has seen the greatest changes. Prior to our arrival, Altamira already had 100,000 inhabitants.

This region is logistically challenging, given that the river does not have a linear shape and is surrounded by dense tropical forest. To ease the movement of materials, we constructed a port to reduce costs incurred transporting goods over ground.

New laws for hydropower projects, and Norte Energia´s vision to improve the region, have been combined with the government’s sustainable development plan for the regions resulting in environmental and social compensations being spread out over time. Because of this, a council was created, the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development of the Xingu, where stakeholders such as the federal and state government, city halls of the regions affected, environmental associations, local communities and companies involved are represented. Norte Energia is one out of 30 representatives with the right to vote. Given we have one of 30 votes in this council other stakeholders have key influence over the shaping of this project.

Could you outline the compensations of these programs so as to further elaborate on the social and environmental benefits of Belo Monte’s project?

Compensation for the communities and monies for environmental protection is significant and covers health, education, public safety, sanitation, and living areas, as well as the local flora and fauna.

In terms of health, Altamira will receive a modern 100-bed hospital. We will also make improvements to the local hospital at Sao Rafael transforming it into a maternity hospital and reducing the number of deaths during childbirth in this region. We will provide four basic health units in Altamira in order to support hospitals and treat minor injuries in this area. Norte Energia donated 11 ambulances and four boat rescue teams, which will provide a fast response to communities located along the river. Furthermore we will provide eight groups of health personnel, medicines and services for the local communities. Since malaria is a serious threat in this region, our health teams have been involved in addressing this problem. From January to June of 2013, malaria incidents were reduced by 77 percent if we compare the same period in 2011. Our plan is to first raise awareness about this disease and second, to treat it in the best way possible to minimizing its impact on the region.

With regard to our education plan, 44 schools have been built and 22 are under construction. These new facilities will give 8,500 students the chance to have a solid education. These schools are built to the same standards as those in other regions. The people of Altamira deserve, and will get the same opportunities as anywhere else.

Indeed, Norte Energia’s participation in Belo Monte has improved public safety. In fact we are investing a total of USD 50 million to advance safety levels by providing equipment, services and new buildings. Helicopters, trucks, motorcycles, radio systems, personnel and other equipment will be provided to the region and its citizens. We will refurbish and remodel some buildings, including the Altamiras 16th military police battalion’s premises. We will also construct a penitentiary center.

Furthermore, the social fabric within Altamira’s communities has been reinforced. We have provided since June of 2012, a new social assistance program, including psychological services, professional social personnel, and financial support for the most vulnerable. Since 2010, Norte Energia has established new job location services helping communities find a job on the construction site. This has helped to register over 25,000 people, out of which 6,000 are migrants.

Our participation has improved the regions sanitary conditions and infrastructure. Around 250 million USD will be invested in water and sewage networks connecting Altamira to Vitoria do Xingu. New neighborhoods have been constructed, where houses will be of 63 square meters, including two bathrooms and a 300 square meter field per house. By 2014, this will total 4,100 living units.

One key component of our actions in this region is our local support for indigenous tribes. We have put real emphasis and priority on the matter of preserving these communities, their cultural identity, ethnic development, and protection of their land. We will assist them with a tailor made program covering health, education, environmental protection, infrastructure, and territorial management. We are fully aware of their conditions and expectations and we are making our best efforts to meet their demands respecting their land, culture and freedom.

Norte Energia has invested in 14 environmental plans to protect the unique fauna and flora of this region. Beyond species protection, we are undertaking scientific studies on animal behavior and plant communities with the aim of taking real steps forward in terms of understanding. This will help further protect these natural communities in the future. In total, 75,210 plant specimens have been taken; of which, 68,753 have been reintroduced into the wild and the rest have been sent to a special site for the study of botany. We are also undertaking a fish biotelemetry project using combined acoustic and radio telemetry to learn more about fish migration and behavioral patterns of fish before and after Belo Monte was initiated.

Overall these actions highlight Norte Energia’s care for local communities underlined by our belief that hydropower project is a powerful source of multilateral development for a region.

If we were to come back in five years’ time, how would you like us to see Norte Energia in Brazil?

Norte Energia should not be seen only as an electric energy generator. It is also a social development tool, promoting education, health, public sanitation, public safety and environmental development. We have invested more than 500 million USD in environmental and social projects developing this area and supporting the neighboring communities. By the end of the project these investments should reach 1.8 billion USD. Our investments are a testimony to our belief in the potential for development in this region.

In five or six years, the region will be transformed and Belo Monte will be completely merged with the landscape. Hence, the biggest transformation will be social, granting families’ dignity and for the first time, will give locals much greater opportunities in life.

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