Fulgêncio Manoel da Silva

Fulgêncio Manoel da Silva was murdered on 16 October, 1997 in Santa Maria da Boa Vista in the backlands of Pernambuco state in northeast Brazil. Da Silva was a farmer, a poet, and a passionate fighter for dam-affected people. He was also the person responsible for the addition of the words "For Rivers, Water and Life" to the International Day of Action Against Dams.

In an interview at the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, held in Curitiba, Brazil in March 1997, da Silva told International Rivers:

My goal is that the world, not just Brazil, study ways to produce electricity without flooding lands, rivers, the environment; and without affecting the life of the people... We are supporting the proposal for an international day of struggle for the rivers, water, and life because we support life - of people, of animals, and the rivers and water.

Da Silva was one of 40,000 people forced to make way for the Itaparica Dam, built on the S�o Francisco River on the border of Pernambuco and Bahia states. Not long after he learned his family would lose their land, he met a family of beggars living under a bridge who had been displaced by a dam but were once farmers like him. It was this experience, he said, that moved him to organize the Itaparica families.

Da Silva says there were many devastating impacts from the project. It halted agricultural production for seven years, and after that time, the production was not half of what is was before the dam. This has had a great impact on the area and the people. The native vegetation and crop trees such as bananas, coconut, oranges and mangoes were submerged, rotting along with the barrels of agrotoxins that weren’t removed before inundation.

The cultural effects of the dam have been devastating. According to da Silva, the customs and cultures of the people were drowned with the rivers and waterfalls. "I don’t feel any dam has yet provided fair compensation for the affected people," he said. "Just compensation will never take place because the destruction of the environment, the destruction of the history of the people and of their lives, the history of where they were born and lived - there is not enough money in the world to pay for this."

It is suspected that the killing of da Silva was ordered by drug traffickers operating in the resettlement communities. The Brazilian Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), blames his murder on the deplorable social conditions resulting from inadequate compensation for the dam oustees. "This," said MAB, "generated the conditions which led to this type of criminality, where families plant marijuana as a means of survival. Money from the World Bank never reached the small farmers, but instead was used to irrigate drug plantations."

"Political action," said Aurelio Vianna of the Brazil Network on Multilateral Financial Institutions, "was not merely an ideological question for Fulgêncio, but a question of honor."

In one of his poems, Fulgêncio wrote "The river is our life-water. What we do with it affects the life of the people, the life of the animals, the life of the river, and the life of the waters. This is true for the world, not just for Brazil."

His work has not been in vain. On 14 March, for the International Day of Action Against Dams and FOR RIVERS, WATER, AND LIFE, we hold his spirit and his beliefs in a place of honor in our actions and in our hearts.

For further information, please contact:

Day of Action Coordinator
International Rivers
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703 USA
Phone: +1 510-848-1155
Fax: +1 510-848-1008
E-mail: dayofaction@internationalrivers.org'