By Flavia Amaral, AIDA attorney
As construction of the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam, Belo Monte, moves forward, social impacts and unrest continue. In the coming few months, close to 2,000 families are scheduled to be relocated from their homes in Altamira, on the Xingu River in Brazil, to newly built housing. Last year, another 2,000 families were resettled.
The reconfiguring of the region continues to create social ills. The new settlements are far from downtown Altamira, and there is no public transportation. Many new houses are already showing structural problems, and there is little to no basic infrastructure such as health care centers, schools, and sewer treatment facilities. Also, as part of being relocated, a family must agree that they have no complaint or concern with the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant or the company responsible for the construction, a difficult ask for many who are giving up so much.
For many indigenous communities, there is an explosion of illegal logging on their lands. Norte Energia,the consortium building Belo Monte, has not implemented required monitoring systems or constructed surveillance stations which would deter the logging. As a result, FUNAI, Brazil’s government agency that oversees Indian rights, reports that the situation is critical, and especially serious for the lands of the indigenous Arara people.
Throughout the area, demonstrations continue by those who seek justice, recognition and compensation. Last month, hundreds of farmers held protests demanding land tenure, credit, and improvements to family farming. Two people died after being hit by a car that broke the blockade of protesters. This situation represents the unease, unrest, and violence that permeates the region.
Clearly, the construction of Belo Monte has caused enormous impact in the Xingu River Basin – well before it’s operational phase.
Four years ago, on the request of AIDA and partner organizations in Brazil, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights took an important step forward for the people of the region. It requested that the Brazilian government adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable damage to the rights of indigenous communities whose cultural integrity and way of life were at risk from the construction of Belo Monte.
Clearly, after all these years, these threats remain: Brazil has not honored the precautionary measures.
AIDA will continue working until we ensure that the environment and the rights of communities in Brazil’s Xingú River Basin are fully respected. We believe that the Commission still has time to act, and that there is potential for the Brazilian government to reframe its policies and practices to become a global model for equity and justice.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support of our work for the people and the environment of the Amazon!