On Friday (15), around 200 people – indigenous people, small agriculture workers and fishermen who will be suffering the impacts of Belo Monte dam, in the Brazilian Amazon, protested against the hydropower plant.
Carrying scoops, hoes and picks, the protesters marched to the main dam construction site and opened a small channel to “restore the natural flow of the Xingu”. The protest was in San Antonio, 50 km from Altamira, in celebration of 23 years of struggle against Belo Monte. They also planted 500 acai trees to stabilize the river bank already impacted by the construction and fixed 200 crosses in memory of those who lost their lives defending the forest.
This protest held while Brazil is hosting the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 is to denounce the lack of social and environment concern regarding the construction of the large hydroelectric power plants in the Amazon.
The coordinator of the “Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre” explained that the plea to the world was to call attention that the river has to be conserved alive. “We are living in the riverside and suffering the consequences of this project which calls for the death of the river. Because of that we claim: Stop Belo Monte!”, said Antonia Melo in an interview to O Estado de São Paulo newspaper.
Amazon faces explosion in dams
Amazon biome – which extends to eight South American countries and also the overseas territory of French Guiana – is facing an unprecedented number of dam proposals, according to Pedro Bara Neto, head of the Free Flowing Rivers & Forest Friendly Roads strategy of WWF’s Living Amazon Initiative.
In the Tapajós river basin in Brazil, for example, over 40 dams are planned for the next decades, three fourths of them to affect protected areas and/or indigenous territories
In the southern Peruvian Amazon, at least four hydropower projects are planned throughout a territory inhabited by indigenous peoples such as the Ashaninkas, which has led to serious questions
about the underlying technical and social criteria of such initiatives. Large projects are also planned for the Madeira basin in the Bolivian Amazon. Altogether, 150 hydroelectric projects are supposed to be in different stages of preparation in the Amazon.
WWF Living Amazon Initiative is advocating a basin-wide approach, in order to minimize impact on this fragile ecosystem. This new planning approach should take into account the individual and the cumulative impact of projects in relation to priority areas of conservation (habitat, species and priority migration routes) and the need to maintain hydrological connectivity in this globally unique living aquatic system.
“There are no silver bullets in conservation, especially in an area as rich and complex as the Amazon. There are new tools to provide better opportunities than ever to support informed decisions based on objective, scientific facts. But the governments of the region have to understand there is a clear limit to advance the hydroelectric frontier into the Amazon. Developing project by project without a clear vision of the future we want for this unique region is just like killing the Amazon river by river”, said Bara Neto.