Dam threatening livelihoods of families in Amazon

CONSTRUCTION of a massive hydroelectric dam is endangering the livelihoods of at least 2,000 families in Brazil’s Amazon jungle state of Para, according to federal prosecutors who recommend that efforts to move the residents be suspended.

A boy plays with a capybara on the Xingu River. Picture: AP
A boy plays with a capybara on the Xingu River. Picture: AP

Prosecutors in Brazil have called for the authorities to stop the eviction where the huge dam is being built.

The federal prosecutors’ office said in a statement that the Norte Energia consortium that is building the $11 billion Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River has violated 55 previously agreed to items to guarantee indigenous groups, farmers and fishermen their means of survival.

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A report based on the prosecutors’ investigation will be sent to Norte Energia.

The landscape is scarred by the Belo Monte project. Picture: Getty
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It recommends immediate action to halt the work of a vessel, “known as the demolition boat,” hired by the consortium.

“It has been travelling along the Xingu river evicting the families who live by the river, in the area to be flooded by the Belo Monte dam,” it says.

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Most of the people facing eviction are from indigenous groups. Neither Norte Energia nor the federal government had immediate comment on the prosecutors’ findings.

The 11,000-megawatt dam would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric energy producer behind China’s Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu, which straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay. The government has said Belo Monte will be a source of clean, renewable energy and is fundamental for the economic development of the region and country.

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The dam, the government has said, was designed to minimise environmental damage.

But environmentalists and indigenous groups say it would devastate wildlife and their livelihoods.

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The Brazilian prosecutor’s office has produced a preliminary report that “recommends urgent intervention in the process to halt the demolitions and the violation of rights of the population evicted”.

The Norte Energy consortium had signed a contract with guarantees that the farmers and fishermen living in the area would be relocated and provided with alternative means of making a living, the prosecutors say.

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A vast area of Amazon rainforest will be flooded for the construction of Belo Monte. Construction on the controversial dam in the northern state of Para was approved by the Brazilian Congress in 2005 but only began in 2011.

Environmentalists and indigenous rights activists have opposed the project from the beginning, saying a vast area of rainforest will be flooded, threatening wildlife and affecting the lives of thousands of people.

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The government says the dam is crucial for development and will create jobs, as well as providing electricity to 23 million homes.