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BRAZIL
New judicial order to stop Belo Monte
8/28/2012
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Court orders construction suspended on the dam for lack of consultation with indigenous communities affected by it.

A court has once again ordered a halt to the construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam on the Xingú River in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pará.

On Aug. 13, the Regional Federal Court of the 1st Region in the capital Brasília revoked the license for the project, which is set to be the third largest hydroelectric power plant in the world, behind China’s Three Gorges and Brazil and Paraguay’s Itaipú. The court also ordered a fine of 500,000 reals (US$248,000) for every day the Norte Energia consortium, which is building the dam, does not observe the decision.

The ruling finds that Belo Monte does not respect the Constitution or the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples because no prior, free or informed consultation was carried out in the affected indigenous communities.

“The Federal Constitution and the ILO convention say that Congress should consult the affected traditional communities before authorizing any project that exploits the resources on their lands,” said Magistrate Antônio de Souza Prudente on behalf of the court. “On the contrary, representatives and senators approved the decree that initiated the work, providing for consultation after and not before. The indigenous communities should be heard and respected.”

The government moved forward with the $13 billion project despite the fact that, in October 2011, a judge in Pará ruled to stop the project on the grounds that it negatively affected artisanal fishing. Then in April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, again notified the government of the impact of Belo Monte on Brazil’s indigenous Amazonian communities. The previous year, the IACHR issued precautionary measures in favor of the native communities of the Xingú River basin and asked the government to suspend the work to make an inquiry to the peoples concerned — a request that was rejected.

In a written statement, Norte Energia said it conducted the consultations and respected the communities’ opinions.

The dam would flood 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of Amazonian forest and affect 66 municipalities, primarily indigenous areas. President Dilma Rousseff’s administration upholds that the hydroelectric plant is needed to meet the county’s growing energy demands.

Energy Minister Edison Lobão stated the government hopes the project will resume as soon as possible.

“If we don’t find a solution quickly, we’re going to have a serious problem that isn’t good for anyone,” Lobão said. “If we miss the hydrological window, we’ll lose a year of construction on Belo Monte; that would cost all Brazilians.”

The plant would have the capacity to generate a maximum of 11 megawatts an hour. The first turbine is scheduled to start working in 2015, and the last in 2019.
—Latinamerica Press.


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