Operations for the controversial Belo Monte dam will be put on hold until commitments to Indigenous communities are fulfilled, a judge has ruled.
January 19, 2016
(ANTIMEDIA) Altamira, Brazil — In a stunning victory for indigenous rights, Brazilian federal court judge Maria Carolina Valente do Carmo suspended the operating license for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. The suspension will remain in place until the dam’s owner, Norte Energia SA, and the Brazilian government complete agreements made with indigenous groups.
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“The gigantic Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, located on the Xingu River in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, stood just weeks away from beginning operation this week — but the controversial mega-dam, the third largest on earth, has now been blocked from generating electricity by the Brazilian court system until its builders and the government meet previous commitments made to the region’s indigenous people.”
Judge Valente do Carmo said the license will not be reinstated until Norte Energia SA and Brazil’s government comply with a 2014 court decision that called for the reorganization of the regional office of Funai, the national agency that protects Brazil’s indigenous groups. Pulse News reports “the judge had already ordered the government and Norte Energia to carry out the Funai restructuring work in 2014, so Valente do Carmo also fined the government and the company 900,000 reais ($225,000) for non-compliance.”
Indigenous communities have long said the project threatens their way of life by interfering with their water supply. They also say it affects fishing and hunting.
In December 2015, Anti-Media reported that the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) authorized the Belo Monte Dam’s operating license, which allows the dam’s reservoirs to be filled. The authorization was granted despite Norte Energia SA’s clear noncompliance with conditions necessary to guarantee the life, health, and integrity of affected communities.
Only months before IBAMA authorized the project, it was delayed because IBAMA recognized Norte Energia had failed to complete the agreement to mitigate the consequences of flooding thousands of acres of Amazon rain forest — a move that could displace 20,000 people. When recommending approval of the dam’s license, João Pedro Gonçalves da Costa, president of the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), recognized the dangers to indigenous communities and that safety conditions had not been met. Despite acknowledging these issues, Gonçalves da Costa said the license could be granted “if deemed appropriate.”
The Belo Monte dam has faced extensive criticism, including calls from Brazil’s Public Federal Ministry to recognize that the crime of “ethnocide” was committed against seven indigenous groups during the building of the Belo Monte dam. Federal prosecutors have also argued Norte Energia violated 55 different obligations it previously agreed to honor in an attempt to offset the damage done to indigenous groups, farmers, and fishermen who will lose their homes.
While we celebrate this victory, we should also recognize that it might be short-lived. The Belo Monte dam is already completed, and there are literally billions of dollars invested in this project. It is unlikely Brazil’s government and Norte Energia will simply walk away from it. Unfortunately, the Belo Monte dam is yet another example of the continued abuse of indigenous communities in the name of progress.
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