Eletrobrás Sets Out to Conquer the Amazon

Ashaninka of the Ene River Valley, Peru
Ashaninka of the Ene River Valley, Peru
Emily Caruso
Returning from three months of sabbatical, the news caught my eye that Brazil's state electric holding company, Eletrobrás has now set its sights on potential dam sites far afield.

The company announced that, together with a group of Brazilian construction companies, it will assess more than 15 potential dam sites in the upper Amazon region of Peru. The lion's share of the electricity generated would be sent several thousand kilometers over transmission lines through the rainforest to Brazil. Last year, Eletrobrás had announced it was interested in three potential dam sites on the Inambari River, a tributary of the Madeira.

This week, International Rivers received a copy of a letter sent to Peruvian authorities by the organization of the Ashaninka people of the Ene River Valley. The Ashaninka have suffered abuses from the Sendero Luminoso guerillha group, and have fought oil companies and cocaine traffickers. The Ashaninka say that one of the planned dams, Paquitzapango, would flood their communities, and that no one has bothered to consult them. "We live on the river bank...(the dam) would block the migratory routes of animals, and increase diseases among us". The indigenous people included a GIS-generated map showing that, at an operating level of 490 meters above sea level, the Paquitzapango reservoir could flood 752 sq km of the forest. Project documents say it would have the capacity to generate 1379 MW.

Eletrobrás has tried to show a kinder, gentler side of the company which is known internationally for trying to steamroll indigenous rights in order to build dams in Brazil. Now a transnational, it's selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange and prospecting for cash to dam the rivers of neighboring Peru.

The Peruvian Native people are upset. You'll hear a lot more about this one.