Hundreds of Indigenous Peoples from the Xingu River Basin have occupied a Belo Monte Dam construction site on Pimental Island in the Xingu River in Pará, Brazil.
The protest began on June 21st, just a few short days after the Xingu+23 anniversary gathering came to a close. The gathering, which ran parallel to the Rio+20 Summit, marked the first major victory against the Belo Monte Dam in 1989.
Initially the protest was led by a group of about 150 Xikrin Peoples; but after successfully managing to paralyze work at the construction site, the group was joined by representatives from the Juruna, Araweté, Assurini and Parakanã.
According to Amazon Watch, The Xikrin simply “set up a peaceful encampment in the middle of the earthen coffer dam, confiscated keys to various trucks and earth moving equipment and stopped all construction works in the area.”
It’s no permanent solution, but it was more enough to get everybody’s attention. Movimento Xingu Vivo (Xingu Alive Movement) reports that Indigenous representatives from all 34 villages in the middle of Xingu River basin are now expected to join the protest in the coming days.
At the center of the protest is the failure of The Norte Energia consortium (NESA)–the group behind the Belo Dam–to resolve any of the project’s impacts on the Xingu River Basin’s inhabitants. Among the many concerns cited by the indigenous leaders are a decline in fish stocks; a reduction in water quality; an increased risk of negative health impacts like malaria and dengue fever; and a heavy restriction on travel as a result of the dam.
Rather than sit down sit down with the protesters, NESA ran to the courts to ask for an eviction order to have the protesters removed from the construction site.
Fortunately, the Judge ultimately decided not to satisfy NESA’s heartless request. On Monday, June 25, the Judge ruled (PDF, Portuguese only) that the Indigenous Peoples’ grievances were legitimate and that the government and companies associated with the dam need to sit down with the Indigenous Peoples and address their concerns.
Amazon Watch reports that “officials from the Brazilian government agency FUNAI and Electronorte (State-owned power company and the main stakeholder in the dam) are [now] scheduled to travel to the occupation to dialogue with the communities.”
This action is taking place amidst a new campaign of persecution aimed at leading members of Movimento Xingu Vivo. According to Amazon Watch, Brazilian authorities–at the request Electronorte–are trying to obtain arrest warrants for at least 11 local activists and residents including members of Movimento Xingu Vivo, a priest, and a fisherman whose house was destroyed for the dam. The hearing for the arrest warrants was held on June 27. A decision is expected to arrive sometime today.
Construction of the Belo Monte Dam began amidst considerable international upheaval, in January of this year. Should it be completed, the controversial dam would divert 80% of the Xingu River’s flow and submerge up to 400,000 hectares of land. In addition to the aforementioned concerns of Indigenous leaders taking part in the Pimental Island protest, the dam would also displace at least 20,000 people.
The Belo Monte is but one of 30 hydro dams currently planned for the Amazon basin and 60 dams for all of Brazil.
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