Outrage as controversial Amazon mega dam approved

June 3, 2011

Hundreds of Brazilian indigenous leaders, river-dwellers and dam-affected people joined together to discuss and protest against the development of the Belo Monte dam, which will devastate their way of life. © Antonio Bonsorte/Amazon Watch

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Brazil’s environment agency, IBAMA, has given the green light to the controversial mega dam, Belo Monte.

In the face of fierce opposition from Indigenous peoples, social movements and scientists, IBAMA issued an environmental licence on 1 June, which will enable the Norte Energia consortium to start construction work.

COIAB, an alliance representing many Indigenous organizations in Brazil’s Amazon said it ‘rejected IBAMA’s decision vehemently and with profound indignation’, stating that the government will not consult with Indigenous peoples and treats their interests with ‘an authoritarianism never before seen in our young democracy…. In truth it wants to destroy Indigenous communities with its model of development.’

It warns that the ‘Indigenous movement is prepared and our strength is the Xingu river.’

The government’s determination to proceed at all costs flies in the face of national and international law.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil lodged a legal challenge to the dam and in May, the Inter-American Commission on Human rights asked the Brazilian authorities to consult all the Indigenous communities that will be affected by the dam before construction, in accordance with Brazilian and international law.

Brazilian Indigenous leader Sheila Juruna during a demonstration, calling for the halting of three controversial mega-dam projects under construction in the Amazon, Brazil. © Survival International

The Commission also urged Brazil to adopt ‘comprehensive measures’ to protect the lives of the uncontacted Indians in the area and to prevent disease from spreading.

The Brazilian government responded, threatening to pull out of the Commission, and ignoring its demands for full consultations with all the affected Indigenous communities.

Brazil’s Anthropological Association expressed its dismay in a statement which says that the license has 75 conditions, but ‘there is no mention of the Indigenous populations and no environmental projects directed towards their populations’.

The Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre [Long Live the Xingu Movement] a large alliance of social and environmental movements in the Xingu river region said in a statement, ‘We shall not cede a centimetre. With each error, with each lie, our indignation and our strength to fight increase’.

Belo Monte will be the third largest dam in the world, and devastate over 1500 km2 of land and reduce fish stocks and fresh water upon which numerous tribes in the area depend for their survival.

Brazilian Indigenous People