Courtesy International Rivers
Tapajós River Basin

Brazil Cancels Massive Dam Project Affecting Indigenous

Rick Kearns

Brazil's environmental officials said that the license for the largest hydro-electric dam project on the Amazon River was canceled in early August due to the projected removal of the indigenous Munduruku community and severe environmental violations; and Munduruku leaders are continuing their protests of other projects on the international stage.

The Munduruku people staged demonstrations as well as utilized strategic measures aimed at defending their lands in the last year and combined with efforts by Brazilian and international activists the government was compelled to stop the Sao Luiz Do Tapajos project.

Brazil's Federal Environmental Agency (IBAMA) announced on August 4 the cancellation of the licensing for the Sao Luiz Do Tapajos mega dam.

Among the reasons listed for the cancellation was the imminent flooding of the Sawre Muybu Indigenous territory, land belonging to the Munduruku, which would then cause the displacement of the entire community. That same territory had recently been officially recognized by Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Agency (FUNAI) which asserted that the construction of the dam would violate Brazil's Constitution.

Munduruku leaders saw the announcement as a positive step for their community but that more work needed to be done on the other 42 potential dam projects.

"We, Munduruku people, are very happy with the news. This is very important for us. Now, we will continue to fight against other dams in our river," said Munduruku General Chief Arnaldo Kabá Munduruku.

On August 12 the General Chief and one of his top advisors, Ademir Kaba Munduruku, went to Surrey, England along with Greenpeace UK to request a meeting with executives of the Siemens Company that has provided turbines for four other mega dam projects in Brazil. The indigenous leaders wanted an assurance from the company that they would stop participating in the mega projects.

While the activists did meet with some Siemens representatives, they are still waiting for further meetings with company executives.

The Munduruku people have also engaged in creative strategies to protect their lands according to one of their international allies, Amazon Watch (AW).

"After witnessing first hand the consequences of Belo Monte, where they staged a series of protests, the Munduruku employed a number of creative strategies, including the "self-demarcation" of the perimeter of the Sawre Muybu territory, where they have placed a series of warning signs, similar to those used by the government. The Munduruku also developed a protocol, describing how a culturally appropriate process of consultation and consent should be carried out, based international human rights agreements, such as ILO Convention 169."

Munduruku leaders such as Ademir Kaba Munduruku, who went to a United Nations meeting last year to present the case of his community, are still actively campaigning against further dams and other violations of their rights.

"The Munduruku people resist and exist. After all there has been 500 years of resistance and we will stand another 500 years as a people, culture, religion and language," he stated on August 12.

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