Federal Public Prosecutors file lawsuit calling for suspension of São Luiz do Tapajós dam

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (MPF) filed a lawsuit today calling for suspension of environmental licensing for the controversial Sao Luiz do Tapajós dam, slated for construction on the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon. The lawsuit charges that the 6,133 MW dam project was politically approved by the administration of President Dilma Rousseff, while ignoring legal requirements for prior consultations with threatened indigenous and riverbank populations and analyses of cumulative impacts caused by a cascade of dams proposed for the Tapajós river.

The MPF argues that, in accordance with Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, of which Brazil is a signatory country, consultations with indigenous peoples and riverbank communities must be carried out prior to political decisions by the federal government concerning dam construction. "Indigenous peoples and other traditional populations are threatened by the construction of a series of planned dams in the so-called Tapajós Complex.  The federal government approved these projects and initiated the environmental licensing process for the São Luiz do Tapajós dam, without consulting threatened populations about the impacts on their lives” states the lawsuit signed by federal prosecutors Fernando Alves de Oliveira Jr, Felipe Bogado Silva and Luiz Antonio Amorim.

In a recent meeting with Federal Public Prosecutors, leaders of the Munduruku tribe complained that the mere announcement of large dam projects on the Tapajos river is stimulating invasions by illegal miners, loggers and land grabbers on indigenous lands.  Representatives of indigenous communities described invasions of their lands by unknown individuals to carry out unauthorized research in their communities, including extraction of flora and fauna species, supposedly for environmental impact studies.

 In blatant violation of Brazilian legislation, the federal environmental agency, IBAMA, authorized the capture, collection and transportation of biological material as part of the EIA for São Luiz do Tapajós, ignoring the fact that such investigations overlapped with indigenous lands, whose communities were not consulted about the project.

 "The current licensing process of the São Luiz do Tapajós dam affronts the rights of local populations threatened by the project.  The disregard for rights includes not only the absence of prior consultations, but also the destruction of sacred areas essential for the beliefs, customs, traditions, symbolism and spirituality of indigenous peoples that are protected by the Brazilian Constitution” states the lawsuit filed by MPF.

Environmental assessments

"The São Luiz do Tapajós project is part of a complex of seven large dams planned for  the Tapajos river and its tributary, the Rio Jamanxim. However, no integrated or strategic environmental assessment of synergistic and cumulative impacts of various planned dams within a single watershed was carried out, despite provisions under Brazilian legislation.  The absence of detailed studies on the combined impacts of the proposed dam cascade in the Tapajós basin generates tremendous uncertainty regarding the true dimensions of the environmental and social consequences of these projects, which tend to be enormous and irreversible," argues the  MPF.

The Tapajós basin is well-known as an area of tremendous biological and cultural diversity, characterized by a mosaic of protected areas, including indigenous territories and conservation units.

Full text of MPF lawsuit: http://www.prpa.mpf.gov.br/news/2012/arquivos/ACP%20Consulta%20Previa.pdf

Text adapted from MPF press release: http://www.prpa.mpf.gov.br/news/2012/mpf-pede-suspensao-do-licenciamento...

More information: 

Federal Public Prosecutors Office – State of Pará  - Communications Office

(55-91) 3299-0148 / 3299-0177