Brasília, Brazil – A federal court in Brazil has ordered the suspension of work on Belo Monte, the third largest dam in the world. The construction of the dam across the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest should be immediately suspended, as the area's indigenous people were not consulted before the project began.
Renata Pinheiro, social and environmental manager at Conservation International Brazil, said:
"This is a historic decision because it marks the first time, in our recollection, that a higher court made a decision following a lawsuit filed by prosecutors against the work on the dam. The ruling sends a message that that the construction of Belo Monte is a violation of the rights granted by Brazil’s legislation and by several international agreements for indigenous peoples to be consulted before the granting of environmental licenses for infrastructure projects that may affect these populations."
Prosecutors filed the lawsuit in 2006, when Brazil’s congress authorized the construction of the hydroelectric dam without consideration of scientific studies that pointed to the negative impact of the project, and without hearing the communities that were going to be affected. There are 15 other lawsuits filed by prosecutors concerning Belo Monte yet to be ruled.
Pinheiro added: “We believe that the negative impacts of Belo Monte will reach a radius of 3000 kilometers, threatening the food security of indigenous populations, which can lead to the loss of the great cultural diversity in the Xingu basin, home to 20,000 indigenous people from 28 ethnic groups that are directly or indirectly affected.”
“Conservation International has always questioned the lack of prior consultations and the granting of the environmental license by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) for the construction of the dam, since experts from the Institute and independent specialists had recommended against it.”
“The plant will overflow about 50 percent of the urban area of the town of Altamira and more than a thousand rural properties in three municipalities, totaling 100,000 hectares. Between 20,000 and 40,000 people will be displaced by the construction of the dam,” she said.
“Besides, Belo Monte will be ineffective in generating energy because it will operate at only 39% of its capacity and be inactive for three to four months of the year. We believe that there are other sources of energy that are more efficient and less harmful to the environment and the indigenous peoples,” Pinheiro concluded.
“We are pleased with this outcome and the wisdom demonstrated by the court in this petition and we strongly hope that the 15 other lawsuits will be ruled before the construction work on Belo Monte begins. We want this project to be halted, as the impacts will be unprecedented for the local ecosystems and the people living in the Xingu.”