Quantcast
Energy

Indigenous Rights Controversies Around Belo Monte Dam Tie Up Brazil's Courts

Amazon Watch International Rivers AIDA

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.

Dam construction begins on the Xingu River. Photo credit: Getty Images

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.

——–

 

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
Robert Vessels

Fly Fishing in Yellowstone: How One Veteran Found a New Life in the Outdoors

By Lindsey Robinson

Evan Bogart never wanted to sleep in a tent again. Between 2004-2011, he'd served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and spent three long combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. He'd spent a good portion of his years in service living in a tent in hot and hazardous deserts. He'd had enough of the outdoors; he wanted to be in places with air conditioning, electricity and no reminders of the war-torn lands he had experienced.

Evan separated in 2011 as an E6 Squad Leader, with an honorable discharge and two Purple Hearts. But his own heart was heavy and troubled. He'd become disillusioned with the U.S. military and its goals in the Middle East. The violence and destruction he'd witnessed left him feeling both angry and guilty. He distinctly remembers one moment in Iraq: "An old woman told me I was a bad man, and I realized I agreed with her."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Make A Change World

How Two Brothers Convinced the Indonesian Government to Clean Up the World's Most Polluted River

By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib

On August 14, we set out to kayak down the world's most polluted river, the Citarum River located in Indonesia, to document and raise awareness about the highly toxic chemicals in its waters and the masses of plastics floating on its surface.

We paddled a total of 68km in two weeks on two plastic bottle kayaks from the village of Majalaya, located just south of Bandung to Pantai Bahagia, the river mouth at the Java Sea. Each kayak was made of 300 plastic bottles to demonstrate that trash can have a second life.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

General Motors to Run Ohio, Indiana Factories With 100% Wind P​ower

By Greg Alvarez

Last week I predicted it wouldn't be long before we had more news on Fortune 500 wind power purchases. Well, a whole seven days passed before there were new deals to report.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E) unearthed three baby loggerheads after a nest inventory at Pawleys Island beach. Lorraine Chow

Sea Turtle Population Rebounding But Many Threats Remain

A new study published in Science Advances has found that most global sea turtles populations are recovering after historical declines.

The results from the analysis suggest that conservation programs actually work, and why we must defend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that protects vulnerable plants and animals, and is currently under attack by political and business interests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
www.youtube.com

Baby Rhino Brings New Hope to India’s Manas National Park

A baby rhino spotted alongside its mother in Manas National Park, located in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is an encouraging new sign that the rhino population in the protected area is on the upswing. The mother, named Jamuna, was rescued as a calf from Kaziranga National Park, located about 200 miles east of Manas and raised at the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, a facility that cares for injured or orphaned wild animals run by Wildlife Trust of India/International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Assam Forest Department. She was moved to the Manas in 2008 as part of the country's rhino conservation efforts.

The calf is her second since 2013—a positive indication that despite concerns due to poaching of mature males, rhinos in Manas are reproducing.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods in the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. Bob Wick, BLM

Navajo Nation Readies Legal Action if Trump Shrinks Bears Ears National Monument

Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's recommendation to reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah could spark a legal battle between the Navajo Nation and the Trump administration.

"We are prepared to challenge immediately whatever official action is taken to modify the monument or restructure any aspect of that, such as the Bears Ears Commission," Ethel Branch, Navajo Nation attorney general, told Reuters.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Jilson Tiu / Greenpeace

Nestlé, Unilever, P&G Among Worst Offenders for Plastic Pollution in Philippines Beach Audit

A week-long beach clean up and audit at Freedom Island in Manila Bay has exposed the companies most responsible for plastic pollution in the critical wetland habitat and Ramsar site—one of the worst locations for plastic pollution in the Philippines.

The Greenpeace Philippines and #breakfreefromplastic movement audit, the first of its kind in the country, revealed that Nestlé, Unilever and Indonesian company PT Torabika Mayora are the top three contributors of plastic waste discovered in the area, contributing to the 1.88 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste in the Philippines per year.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
www.youtube.com

Arkansas Plant Board Backs Dicamba Ban Next Summer in Blow to Monsanto

The Arkansas Plant Board has approved new regulations that prohibit the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31, 2018 after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints of pesticide misuse in the state.

Arkansas, which temporarily banned the highly volatile weedkiller in July, could now face legal action from Monsanto, the developers of dicamba-resistant soybeans or cotton and the corresponding pesticide, aka the Xtend crop system.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox