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protests against brazil's hydro power dam project

The latest protest against the Amazonian Belo Monte Dam project took place in Washington last Monday (9th of April). This demonstration against the Brazilian government's anti-social and anti-environmental policies took place on the same day that Brazil's president and former revolutionary guerilla Dilma Roussef met Barack Obama. Despite international and indigenous outcry, construction of the world's third largest damn is already under way. With five thousand men at work, nothing seems to stop the government's determination to build this dam.

Brazil is rapidly becoming a strong emerging economy at the global level. Industrial development and and increase in the standard of living has meant that demand for energy is at an all time high, hence the government's keenness to construct a network of dams in the Amazonia. Indigenous groups and their supporters had successfully fought legal battles to stop the work before it started, arguing that that its development threatened environmental sustainability and the human rights of those living in the Amazonian.

The plans for Belo Monte Dam consist of a group of 3 huge dams, numerous dykes, and canals to supply two power stations on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil. More than 80% of the flow of the Xingu river will be diverted causing a permanent drought on the river's "Big Bend," as well as directly affecting the Paquiçamba and Arara territories of the Juruna and Arara indigenous peoples. It will also flood a total of 668 km² of which 400 km² is standing forest. The flooding will displace way more than the 20,000 that Brazil's government admits will lose their land, including Juruna, Xikrin, Arara, Kuruaya and Kayapo indigenous communities. It will permanently destroy much of the Amazon's biodiversity. The radical disturbance of the ecosystem presents a high level of health risk from insect-borne diseases such as malaria. As regards energy efficiency the dam is is way below its promises. Belo Monte dam will only produce 10% of its capacity during the 3-5 month long dry season, or 39% of its nominal capacity. It is not a feasible project and private investors know it, and this is why the Brazilian government is bankrolling 80% of the project through the country's development bank, BNDES.

The project was approved based on half truths and the omission of essential facts. Both the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention 169 and the Brazilian constitution recognises and protects indigenous rights and it demands thorough consultation on any projects which affect them. The Environmental Impact Assessment only considers affected populations those in the area of flooding, but not populations that face permanent drought on their land. The assessment states that populations dependent on the Xingu river were consulted, but in fact there were only four public hearings (where security forces obstructed the entrance of civil society representatives) and any queries were ridiculed and dismissed. Concerning environmental issues, there is no mention of the impact of the project on fish species, quite an omission given that there are four times the total amount of fish species in this region than there are found in the whole of Europe.

Belo Monte is shaping up to be one of the major battlegrounds in the ongoing struggle of economic development vs indigenous and ecological survival. Belo Monte Dam will irreversibly affect some of the richest biological and cultural diversity of our planet. Construction has only started and there is every reason to fight it.

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There is 1 comment on this story...
Added By: Tribes Alive - 17th April 2012 @ 12:49 PM
It's great to see SchNews highlighting this. We've been working on Belo Monte for over five years; we can't understand why the third largest dam IN THE WORLD, with huge environmental and human costs, gets so little exposure in the media, so thank you SchNews!

Indians from the area want to attend the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June, and we're helping. If you would like to contribute, you can at www.justgiving.org/tribes-alive .

More info about us at www.tribesalive.org

Patrick Cunningham
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