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Indigenous groups say “No” to dams
9/29/2010
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Native communities warn massive hydroelectric initiative threatens their culture, health and well-being.

Indigenous community members are denouncing widespread environmental, health and cultural damage that a series of massive hydroelectric plants on Amazon River tributaries pose, and demanding that the government reconsider its push for these multi-billion projects.

In an open letter titled the “Letter Of The Four Rivers” Aug. 27, just after outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva green lighted the US$11-billion Belo Monte dam, several dozen indigenous and human rights groups said projects on the Madeira, Tapajós, Xingu and Teles Pires rivers mean forced, militarized evacuations of their peoples and the criminalization of social protest.

“The threats that the populations of the Madeira, Tapajós, Xingu and Teles Pires have been under are also reasons for our concerns, caused by the false discourse of progress, development, employment generation and improvement of quality of life, sold by governments and consortia of companies in a clear demonstration of the use of demagoguery at the expense of true information, denied during the entire licensing process and implementation of projects...,” said the letter, written by indigenous groups in following a meeting in Itaituba in the northern Amazon state of Para. “We condemn the privatization of our natural resources that cause insecurity and degradation of peoples, cultures and ancient wisdom, our forests, our rivers and our sociobiodiversity.”

On Sept. 27, the public defender of the Para state released a statement after meeting with local indigenous communities that said: “It is still a while before the plant becomes a reality, but we are concerned that these families have not received concrete information about its development.”

The government office said community members told them workers from Norte Energia consortium that was awarded the dam concession have entered their lands without their permission.

In addition to the Belo Monte project, which when finished is expected to be the world´s third-largest dam, the Santo Antonio and Jirau dams on the Madeira River in the western Brazilian Amazon – two projects with an initial cost of more than $5 billion – are some of the most contentious infrastructure projects.

Environmentalists have said the two dams that are under construction, part of the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America, or IIRSA, are already causing irreversible damage to the river´s fish population, which is the principal protein of the dozens of indigenous groups, some of them living in voluntary isolation, in the area.

“Potential environmental and social impacts – including displacement, threats to food security, increased exposure to disease, pressure on already weak social services, risks to biodiversity, and deforestation leading to greenhouse gas emissions – make the Madeira Complex a "development" disaster in the making,” said US organization Rainforest Alliance.
–Latinamerica Press. 


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