Xavante indigenous meeting on threats to Araguaia River

Araguaia & Tocantins Rivers

The Araguaia and Tocantins rivers flow from the central plateau northward to the southern channel of the Amazon just upstream from Belém. The Tocantins is an embanked river, with relatively clear water, while the Araguaia is a floodplain river, with a sinuous bed and muddy waters, due to its substantial sediment load. The two rivers converge at Marabá, Brazil.

Along the river live 11 distinct indigenous ethnic groups, totaling more than 14,000 people. The basin is also especially rich in fish species, with about 300 already identified, and on the Araguaia is the world´s largest fluvial island, the Ilha do Bananal.

There are two principal threats to the Araguaia–Tocantins river basin, whose cumulative impacts together would spell disaster for rivers, their aquatic life and local communities. One is the Brazilian government’s plan to construct a series of hydroelectric dams  on the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers, and their tributaries.  On the Tocantins river, five large dams have already constructed (Tucurui, Estreito, Serra da Mesa, Cana Brava and Lajeado) and two new large dams  (Serra Quebrada and Marabá) are planned.  On the Araguaia river, current government plans call for three large dams:  Couto Magalhães (under construction) and Torixoreu (planned) on the upper stretch of the river in Mato Grosso state, and Santa Isabel on the lower Araguaia (on the border of Tocantins and Pará states).  Plans for the especially-controversial Santa Isabel dam were scrapped in 2002 by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment on the grounds of its disastrous implications for biodiversity, local fisheries, tourism, indigenous peoples and arqueological sites.  In June 2009, as part of negotiations over the green-lighting of Belo Monte on the Xingu river, Environment Minister Carlos Mince announced that the Santa Isabel and Torixoreu dams would not be constructed, maintaining large stretches of the Araguaia as a free-flowing river.  However, in March 2010, soon after a first-phase license was granted for Belo Monte, the Brazilian government formally announced the construction of both dams.  Moreover, two other large dams - Toricoejo and Agua Limpa - that pose major threats to indigenous peoples are slated for construction along the Rio das Mortes, a major tributary of the Araguaia.   Another major threat to the rivers and people ot the Araguaia-Tocantins basin  are plans to channelize and blast rock outcroppings along 1,782 km of the Araguaia and the Rio das Mortes, as well as sections of the Tocantins to construct an industrial waterway, or hidrovia, to lower the cost of transporting soybeans for export.

More information: 

Alumínio e os Rios, Aprenda sobre os impactos globais da produção de alumínio.