AUG 10, 2016 8:10 AM PDT

A Gold for Brazil's Environment

 


The Munduruku indigenous people of Brazil and environmentalists alike have recently won a battle worthy of a gold medal — blocking construction of a hydroelectric dam by the São Luiz do Tapajós. The São Luiz do Tapajós dam was heavily opposed by the Munduruku Indians, who were anxious of the consequences that dam would have on their lands and livelihoods. They’ve lobbied vigorously and effectively against the Tapajós dam and recently their hard work has reaped support from international NGOs, including Greenpeace, and succeeded in its goal. Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, has decided not to give an environmental license to Eletrobrás, the company developing the $8.6 billion plant, which would be first of a series of dams planned for the Tapajós river basin.
 
The São Luiz do Tapajós dam's reservoir would have encompassed 72,225 hectares (278 square miles), part of it flooding Munduruku territory. Brazil still has plans to build 43
 
According to Mongabay News, “If it had gone ahead, the 8,000-megawatt São Luiz do Tapajós dam would have been the country’s second largest hydroelectric power station, after the controversial Belo Monte dam, which became operational earlier this year. It would have also been one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world.”

The approval for the dam would have meant catastrophe for the approximately 10,000 Munduruku people that live around the river Tapajós. Given that the dam would flood a vast area, it would require indigenous communities to vacate their lands, most likely by forced removal. Such an act is strictly prohibited by the Brazilian constitution except in cases of disease epidemics or war.
 
Chief Juarez Saw Munduruku, from the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land:

The Munduruku have faced years of struggle because of the federal government’s refusal to name the 170,000 hectares (656 square miles) of Sawré Muybu land as indigenous territory. However, a turning point occurred in April of this year when Funai, Brazil’s agency on indigenous affairs, finally published a long awaited initial report that recognized the Sawré Muybu lands as indigenous. This came after the Indians themselves demarcated out their own land boundaries as a symbol of their frustration.

The ruling now has to be endorsed by Suely Araujo, the president of Ibama. However, as she is a member of the licensing commission, which voted unanimously against authorization, she is expected to ratify the decision shortly.

Sources: Mongabay News, The Guardian, HydroWorld, Common Dreams
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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