Communities Call on Inter-American Commission to Suspend Belo Monte Dam

AIDA, Justiça Global, Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre, Amazon Watch, International Rivers
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Indigenous and Riverbank Communities Call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Suspend the Massive Belo Monte Dam in the Brazilian Amazon

As the government prepares to issue the dam’s construction license, communities urge the Commission to denounce illegalities in licensing and violations of human rights

Washington, D.C.- Today international and Brazilian human rights organizations submitted a formal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), denouncing grave and imminent violations upon the rights of indigenous and riverine communities that will be affected by the construction of Belo Monte Dam Complex on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon. Signed by the Xingu Alive Forever Movement and as well as representatives of affected communities, the petition urgently calls on the Commission to adopt “precautionary measures” that would compel the Brazilian government to halt plans to build the dam, slated to be world’s 3rd largest.

The petition documents the Brazilian government’s violation of international treaties, ignoring the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples from the lower Xingu Basin, including the Arroz Cru, Arara, and Juruna communities. It also highlights major threats posed by the Belo Monte Dam, including forced displacement of communities without insuring their free, prior and informed consultation, threats to food security and access to drinking water. The petition concludes: "Despite the gravity and irreversibility of the impacts of the project to local communities, there were no appropriate measures taken to ensure the protection of human rights and the environment."

“The Belo Monte dam will cause extensive damage and gravely violate the rights of everyone living along the Xingu River,” stated Antônia Melo, a leader and spokesperson of the Xingu Alive Forever Movement. “This project will uproot entire indigenous and riverine communities. The government is not listening to us, nor making any attempt to protect our rights. This is why we have asked the IACHR to intervene.”  

The IACHR petition comes on the same week as prosecutors from Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry (MPF) sent a document to Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA advising that the agency not issue an installation license until the dam-building consortium Norte Energia can comply with an obligatory set of social and environmental conditions. Norte Energia and the Brazilian government have been pushing IBAMA to issue a “partial” installation license, which would allow the project to break ground without complying with legally binding conditions on the dam’s provisional license.

“The government doesn’t even know what will happen to the communities on the Xingu River,” said Andressa Caldas, the director of Justiça Global, a signatory to the petition. “We have seen assessments from environmental agencies – like IBAMA and [Brazil’s indigenous agency] FUNAI – and those from groups of specialists, that the construction of Belo Monte will increase illness and poverty, while causing a surge of disorderly migration to the region that will overload health, education, and public safety infrastructure.”

“It worries us how the Brazilian government is ignoring national and international standards to accelerate this project, even at the expense of human rights and the environment,” affirmed Astrid Puentes Riaño, the co-Director of the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA). “Moving forward without taking precautions required by international norms will only result in the irreversible destruction of a critically important region of the Amazon.”

In addition to calling attention to the illegalities and human rights violations associated with the Belo Monte Dam, the petition cites an important precedent, pointing out that in 2009 the IACHR implemented similar precautionary measures, leading to the suspension of the Chan hydroelectric dam in Panama due to its forced displacement of indigenous communities.


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