Indigenous Rights Controversies Around Belo Monte Dam Tie Up Brazil's Courts
Recent lawsuits by Brazil's Federal Public Prosecutors (MPF) concerning the Belo Monte dam are demanding accountability from the dam-building Norte Energia consortium, Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) and the state environmental agency IBAMA for noncompliance with mandated mitigation measures concerning the Juruna and Xikrin Kayapó, two indigenous groups affected by the mega-project.
The lawsuits demonstrate that conditions placed upon the dam's environmental licensing have not been met and call for compensation for socio-environmental impacts of the dam, currently under construction on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon.
The MPF filed a lawsuit in late August showing that Norte Energia was deliberately reneging its obligation to purchase land and provide health services for the Juruna indigenous community Km 17, one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of Belo Monte's construction due to its proximity to the constant movement of heavy machinery and workers.
This lawsuit led the national indigenous National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) to issue a complaint to IBAMA, demanding that Norte Energia be held accountable for noncompliance with this formal condition of the environmental licenses for Belo Monte. The Federal Court of Pará State responded this week by giving Norte Energia 60 days to purchase the Juruna land and deliver health care or face daily fines of R$200,000 (U.S.$87,000).
"The situation here has only gotten worse," said Sheyla Juruna, a member of the Km 17 community known for her local and international activism in defense of her community's rights. "Belo Monte created the illusion that people would get everything they didn't have. That's when the problems began. Support from FUNAI never came and our health conditions are precarious. Civil society thinks that the indigenous have rights, yet our rights are being violated every day."
Following the ruling in favor of the Juruna community the MPF filed another lawsuit targeting the neglect of BNDES, IBAMA and Norte Energia stemming from the absence of prior analysis of impacts and associated compensation measures for Xikrin Kayapó communities that are also threatened by Belo Monte. The lawsuit charges that these three institutions violated the rights of the Xikrin Kayapó when they allowed construction to commence on the project without measuring the impacts it would cause to the indigenous group, whose villages are based on the Bacajá River, a tributary to the Xingu directly adjacent to the dam's most serious impacts.
The MPF has asked the Judiciary to suspend Belo Monte's installation license, paralyzing the project until Norte Energia can present findings on the project's impacts and its corresponding compensations for indigenous communities. The lawsuit is unprecedented in its scope as it could force the consortium and BNDES, financier of 80 percent of the dam's costs, to indemnify affected indigenous groups of the Xingu for the delay in measuring and mitigating its socio-environmental repercussions.
"We truly have reason to celebrate seeing BNDES is finally being charged as a responsible party in Belo Monte's disastrous impacts," said Maíra Irigaray Castro of Amazon Watch. "It is time for financiers to pay for the criminal negligence exemplified by noncompliance with conditionalities, which they should also be monitoring for all projects that they finance."
Norte Energia's failure to comply with Belo Monte's legally mandated conditions is not new. IBAMA released a report in July confirming that the compliance has worsened as the dam's construction has sped up. The report shows that only four out of 23 conditions concerning local urban populations have been met.
"Last week we had a meeting with representatives of the government and local people and their discontent is clear," said Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Alive Forever Movement. "There is no fresh water, no electricity, no health care, no schools and no sanitation. We cannot accept that the conditions, that are fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution, be undermined in this way. IBAMA must suspend construction, as defined by law, until these conditions are met."
"These legal actions add to the existing evidence of the severe impacts that the Belo Monte dam is having on human rights and the environment in the Xingu, and of the responsibility of all Brazilian agencies involved in the project," said María José Veramendi of Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA). "We look forward to a positive result of these legal actions and that Brazil will effectively comply with applicable national and international laws, as all agencies involved can be legally responsible and the State can be internationally responsible for these human rights violations."
Per FUNAI's request, as well as the lawsuits brought by the Public Prosecutors, both IBAMA and the federal judges could suspend the dam's installation license until all the requirements and conditions are met.
"The characterization of Amazonian dams as clean and cheap energy is based on the ability of project proponents, including BNDES, to 'externalize' their true social and environmental risks and impacts. These lawsuits are significant in that they're sending a signal that they are indeed being held accountable for their decisions and the damage that they cause to the environment and indigenous peoples," said Brent Millikan, Amazon program director at International Rivers.
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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