Belo Monte Dam Construction Halted

International Rivers
Friday, August 24, 2012

Norte Energia could be liable for reparations and ecosystem restoration for works already completed

Altamira, Brazil:

Project developer Norte Energia, S.A. stopped all construction on the Belo Monte Dam yesterday after receiving written notification of last week's decision from the Brazilian Federal Appeals Court that suspended the project. Norte Energia issued a press statement declaring that they had stopped construction to comply with the court order but that they would be “taking all available measures to reverse the decision.” Earlier this week, Norte Energia complained that the court decision suspending Belo Monte was “inadmissible”.

Citing violations of the Brazilian Constitution and ILO Convention 169, to which Brazil is part, the court's judgement annuls a 2005 Congressional decree that authorized the Belo Monte Dam in the absence of an environmental impact study and prior consultations with indigenous peoples. According to federal Judge Antônio Souza Prudente, who authored the decision, the Brazilian Congress can only authorize Belo Monte after prior consultations with indigenous peoples that require their consent, considering the findings of a comprehensive environmental impact study. “To do otherwise would transform the Constitution into a dead letter, an act of fantasy. We can’t admit a congressional initiative within a democratic system of government that is an act of dictatorship, an authoritarian act that violates the rights of indigenous peoples, " stated Souza Prudente in his decision, unanimously upheld by fellow judges.

As a result of the court decision, Belo Monte's environmental and installation licenses, awarded to Norte Energia by federal environmental agency IBAMA, are now invalid. The court decision requires that all construction activities at Belo Monte be immediately ceased. The p
roject consortium Norte Energia, S.A, faces a daily fine of R$500,000, or about US$250,000, if it does not comply with the suspension.

According to lawyers consulted by the Movimento Xingu Vivo, the appeals court judgement can be interpreted to require that all works already executed by Norte Energia must be dismantled, and that the environment of the region must be immediately restored. Norte Energia must also award compensation to those already affected by the project.

Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Forever Alive Movement, said "We are going to consult our legal advisors in order to guarantee payment of reparations for the damages already faced by the people affected by Belo Monte. We understand that as the project's licenses are now invalid and that Norte Energia must reverse all of its actions that have caused impacts on the river, people and the environment. This is what we demand. The courts have finally served justice and stopped Belo Monte. Now, we want anything that reminds us of this genocidal project to disappear from our lives for good."

Read the full judgment here (in Portuguese):

Acordão BM 1

Acordão BM 2
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Acordão BM 4

Media contacts: 

Brent Millikan, International Rivers +55 61 8153-7009
Zachary Hurwitz, International Rivers +1 510 848 1155 x313