Juruena National Park (Amazon and Mato Grosso state) will not be reduced to accommodate the installation of hydroelectric power plants until 2023. This is confirmed by the latest Decennial Plan for Energy Expansion (PDE), available for public consultation on the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) website until the 5th of October. The potential construction of the São Simão and Salto Augusto dams, within Juruena Park, had been previously communicated unilaterally by the Energy Research Company (EPE), and the issue was considered to be included in the agenda of discussions of the National Council of Energy Policy (CNPE) later this year. The decision of the Federal Government ensures the integrity of the park for the next ten years and represents a victory for the civil society.
The Decennial Plan for Energy Expansion 2023 is an important planning tool for the national energy sector, which contributes to the design of national development strategies to be drawn by the Brazilian government. It also incorporates an integrated view of the expansion of demand and supply of different energy sources in the period 2014-2023.
According to the document, the projected date of construction of the hydroelectric plants in protected areas such as Juruena National Park, depends on the “long deadlines lately observed in the environmental licensing process.” The report explains that, this “lengthy process” as a result of the uncertainty regarding referrals of environmental licensing of hydropowers inside protected areas, what significantly influences the deadline of planned plants.
For Mauro Armelin, director of conservation at WWF-Brazil, despite the wise decision of the government, the justification is not convincing. The environmental complexity of the site and the rich biodiversity of the Park are the main points to be considered for the non-construction of the hydropower plants. “Juruena is one of the largest parks in the country and is located in a mosaic of protected areas, in other words, it is a key region to curb deforestation, unplanned occupation and land grabbing. The region is of extreme biological importance for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plant species threatened by extinction,” he explains.
According to him, the delays in the licensing process cannot be the main argument, otherwise there is a risk of a new movement focused on the simplification of licensing. “Instead, the main message is that the construction of projects of infrastructure in areas of high environmental complexity needs a much more robust articulation with society through democratic spaces for discussion,” he adds.
If built, the hydroelectric reservoirs would flood about 40,000 hectares in the Juruena National Park, and other state parks and indigenous lands. Dams also may affect the survival of 42 endangered or endemic species, as well as all the rapids of the Juruena River, preventing vital ecological processes to migratory fish, for example.
In recent months, this important issue has been widely reported by WWF-Brazil’s SOS Juruena campaign. Launched in June this year, the initiative has requested the support of society to ask for the government not to allow the construction of dams within the park and thus ensure its integrity.
Through an online petition, the action so far registered about 25,000 signatures from Brazil and around the world. “We are confident that the campaign helped to achieve this fantastic result. Today we celebrate this excellent outcome for the Brazilian society, together with all those who supported us and who have also acted in defense of Juruena and the Tapajos Basin. Our struggle continues so that this decision is not revised in the coming years and the conservation of this unique biodiversity becomes the main argument for a final decision on the non-deployment of these plants,” celebrates Armelin.
According to WWF-Brazil, it is unacceptable that protected areas created by extensive social and environmental studies, political agreements between governments and productive sectors, have their integrity threatened by unilateral decisions and lack of enforcement of basic assumptions as the Systematic Conservation Planning, and the debate and consultation to society. “Sustainability requires transparency and broad social participation, to ensure balance between economic, social and environmental factors in the formulation of public policies, decision-making and actions that affect Brazilian territory and its citizens,” says Mauro.
The proposal of the Decennial Plan for Energy Expansion is in Ordinance No 471, published on the 9th of September, Official Daily Government Newspaper. Relevant documents may be obtained on the website of the Ministry of Mines and Energy: (www.mme.gov.br), in the link “PDE 2023”. Although this review has already eliminated the possibility of installation of hydropower plants for now, it is important that the society continues to monitor future revisions of the plan to ensure that such projects are not included in the future.
About Juruena National Park
Juruena National Park, created in June 2006, is located north of Mato Grosso and south of Amazonas states. It is the fourth largest national park in the country, with nearly two million hectares, equivalent to the size of Israel. Furthermore, the protected area is part of the largest river system in the country – the Tapajós Basin. It has the greatest diversity and productivity of freshwater on the planet and occupies a strategic position in the so-called “Arc of Deforestation,” also ensuring environmental connectivity of neighboring protected areas as well as between the Amazon and the Cerrado.
The territory is part of the Southern Corridor of the Amazon, which hosts a number of protected areas which aims to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. The regional beauty and ecological wealth contrast with the harsh reality that has threatened the life of species, rivers, forests and communities.
The area of the Park is one of the most vulnerable of the Amazon, which already suffers from environmental impacts such as illegal mining, overfishing, unsustainable agriculture and uncontrolled logging. In its surroundings, both in the states of Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Amazonas, relevant boundaries of deforestation are actively degrading local natural resources at an accelerated pace.