Outrage over Peru-Brazil Energy Agreement

International Rivers
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Six dams will displace indigenous communities and threaten Amazon ecosystems

Asserting its role as a regional superpower, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed an energy agreement with Peruvian President Alan Garcia yesterday, which includes building around six hydroelectric power plants in the Peruvian Amazon to supply more than 6000 MW of power to Brazil.

The projects were designed by the Brazilian electric utility Eletrobrás in conjunction with Brazilian multinational construction giants Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez , all of which would be directly involved in dam construction with funding from the Brazilian national development bank, BNDES. Expected to cost more than US$15 billion, the planned dams were designed to produce energy mainly for power to Brazil.

"This accord will not guarantee clean and renewable energy for Peru. On the contrary, it will impose a series of negative environmental and social impacts such as displacement of indigenous people and deforestation in at least 5 departments of Peru, putting at grave risk the future of the Peruvian Amazon;" said Mariano Castro, former Executive Secretary of the Peruvian National Environment Council (CONAM) and lawyer with the Peruvian Society of Environmental Rights (SPDA).

One of the first projects to be built under the accord would be the Paquitzapango Dam on the Ene River, which would impact close to 17,000 Ashaninka indigenous people and threaten the Ashaninka Communal Reserve, as well as the Otishi National Park, both of which are legally,protected areas.

"The Paquitzapango dam is being planned without a dialogue between the Peruvian government and the people that would be impacted by those projects," said Ruth Buendia Mestoquiari, an Ashaninka indigenous leader. "The Ene River is the soul of our lands, the river that feeds our forests, animals, plants, crops and, especially, our children."

The Inambari Dam on the Madre de Dios River is also likely to constructed under the bilateral accord signed yesterday by Silva and Garcia. Inambari would flood more than 46,000 hectares of land, which would leave more than 15,000 people without agricultural lands. The project would also flood portions of the Inter-Oceanic highway, for which Peruvians already paid a massive price.

"Peru does not need these dams, we have close to 50,000 MW of renewable energy potential, such as wind, solar and geothermal, that does not include large dams. This deal will only benefit Brazil, and we are not going to let this happen," said Engineer Alfredo Novoa Pena, the founder of Peruvian environmental organization Pro-Naturaleza.

Although the agreement has been signed by the presidents, it is likely to face legal hurdles in Peru. "As this agreement implies establishing changes in the legal framework for the construction of hydroelectric dams in Peruvian lands, it should be reviewed by Congress before approval," said Cesar Gamboa, a lawyer with legal NGO Environmental Rights and Natural Resources (DAR).

The agreement was also met with concern in Brazil. "The results of this agreement will irreversibly affect the ecosystems of the Peruvian Amazon, yet the energy that will be produced will serve the interests of international and Brazilian mining and metallurgy companies that are ever-expanding in the Amazon. The power will not go to meet the necessities of everyday Peruvians or Brazilians," said Professor Célio Bermann, Professor of the Institute of Electrical Engineering and Energy at the University of Sao Paulo.

The agreement does not contain provisions for the well-being of communities affected by the projects, their rights and participation in benefits of the projects.


Media contacts: 

Cesar Gamboa, Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, +51-2662063 ext 104
Monti Aguirre, Latin America Program Coordinator, International Rivers,
+ 1 510-5911220