Fishermen Paralyze Construction of the Belo Monte Dam

Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre
Thursday, September 20, 2012
FIshermen form a line to block access to the construction site of a coffer dam on the Xingu River

On Wednesday, a group of about 50 fishermen prevented a ferry from transporting machines and workers to a coffer dam being built for the Belo Monte Dam Complex, setting up a protest camp on one of the main islands of the Xingu River near the construction site.

After assembling, the protesters decided to remain indefinitely in place, and called on Norte Energia and IBAMA to immediately negotiate compensation for the loss of ecologically sensitive fish species that the fishermen have suffered as a result of the coffer dam's construction.

"The fishermen have seen a 50% reduction in fisheries production. The river is drying up. Several species failed to spawn over the last year due to Norte Energia's intervention in the river.  A lot of fish are dying, and in some locations the company wants to impede the fishermen from accessing the river," explained Ana Barbosa Laide of the Movimento Xingu Vivo, who has accompanied the mobilization.

On Wednesday night, a group of fishermen who depend on ornamental fish from the river joined the group, demanding that environmental agency IBAMA guarantee the survival of species that are endemic to the area where the dam is being built, saying that otherwise, the species will go extinct. "They argue that if these species die off, IBAMA should release its population of collected ornamental fish in order to save the economic livelihoods of the fishermen," explained Laide.

According to the movement leaders, the occupation protests the decision of IBAMA to allow Norte Energia to permanently close the river. During this process, the fishermen were not consulted nor informed about how they could continue their economic activities, or how they could continue to transport their boats on the river past the dam. "The river is ours and we came to fish. You can't just prohibit fishing, we have to work, "says Lucio Vale, President of the Fishermen's Colony of Altamira.

On the evening of the 19th, civil police officers, accompanied by members of Norte Energia, were at the demonstration site. According to agents, they were assured that the protest was non-violent.

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