National Geographic : 1978 Feb
A businessman confirms His Honor's view: "I paid $4,000 for my new telephone. Other wise I might have waited a year or two for installation. To get a dial tone, I still some times wait half an hour." "Electricity is now a bigger problem than phones," a woman in Sao Paulo complained. "Once a week the power fails in my apart ment house. The elevator stops. I walk up ten floors." I've done the same in Rio, and shaved by flashlight. The acute power problem touches everyone in urban Brazil, and thus even casual visitors can appreciate Brazil's con cern for energy. The urban thirst for electricity now has 20,000 men at work along the Parana River on the Paraguayan border near the scenic Iguacu Falls. "Foz do Iguacu used to be a bootleggers' town," said an engineer when I visited the project. "It was a very tough place. Fifteen years ago men here ate lunch with a pistol on the table. In only two years they had 11 mayors." Project Dwarfs All Predecessors A bi-national corporation today is building Itaipu, planned as the world's largest power generating project, at a cost of some six bil lion dollars. The diversion canal for the Parana River already yawns wide. I watched the night shift digging under strong lights. Brazilians and Paraguayans jointly staff the project, working toward completion in 1989 when Itaipu will generate some seventy bil lion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. (Grand Coulee produces twenty billion, and Aswan ten billion.) "And then we'll still have a shortage," la ments a Paulista businessman. "By 1990 we'll run out of hydroelectric sites here in south eastern Brazil. We're site poor."