Amazon mega-dam suspended over fears for fishing

Kayapó Indian. Thousands of Indians depend on the Xingu river, which provides them with fish

Kayapó Indian. Thousands of Indians depend on the Xingu river, which provides them with fish
© Antonio Bonsorte/Amazon Watch

A judge in Brazil has ordered that the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam in the Amazon be suspended, warning that it would disrupt fishing by the local population.

Thousands of Indians and many other communities living in the area around the Xingu river depend on fishing as a key element of their nutrition.

The judge has forbidden the consortium building the dam, Norte Energia S.A., from implementing ‘any works which will interfere with the natural course of the Xingu river’.

The consortium faces a daily fine of over US$100,000 if it does not comply with the ruling.

If built, Belo Monte would be the third largest dam in the world. As well as drastically affecting fish stocks, it would devastate vast areas of forest upon which thousands of indigenous people, including uncontacted Indians, depend for their well-being.

Sheyla Juruna, of the Juruna tribe which will be affected by the dam, stated, ‘We consider the river our home. We do not want the dam, we do not want this destructive project… we want our rights upheld’.

The Indians have not given their consent for the dam to go ahead, and have warned that if it does, the Xingu could become a ‘river of blood’.

They have held numerous protests against Belo Monte. Last month, thousands of people took to the streets worldwide, calling on the Brazilian government to halt the dam. Survival supporters delivered letters to the Brazilian embassies in Berlin, London, Paris and Madrid expressing their concerns for the Indians.

The Brazilian government issued the construction license for the dam earlier this year, disregarding a request from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the licensing be suspended until the Indians’ rights are respected.