Holding Brazil accountable for the Belo Monte Dam | Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) Skip to content Skip to navigation

Holding Brazil accountable for the Belo Monte Dam

When fully operational, Belo Monte will be the third-largest dam in the world, constructed in one of the most important ecosystems on the planet: the Amazon rainforest. It sits on the Xingu River in Pará, a state in northern Brazil. The reservoir will cover 500 square kilometers of forest and farmland—an area the size of Chicago.

For the people of the Xingu, construction of Belo Monte has meant loss of access to water, food, housing, work and transportation. At least 20,000 people have been displaced.

The government and construction consortium began to construct the dam without first consulting the people of the region, many of whom are indigenous. They flouted international human rights law, which requires the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities. Brazil also failed to comply with precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which were intended to protect the life, health, and integrity of local communities.

Though Belo Monte began operations in May 2016, it is not yet operating at full capacity. In April 2016, a federal court suspended the dam's operating license because the consortium in charge did not complete basic sanitation works in Altamira, the city nearest to and most affected by the dam.

What AIDA is doing: 

  • Continuing to represent affected people and communities in their quest to hold the government of Brazil responsible for the damages done to their lives.
  • Generating international pressure on Brazil by reporting on the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 
  • In 2010, together with partner organizations in Brazil, we requested precautionary measures in favor of the affected indigenous peoples before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which were granted on April 1, 2011.
  • In 2011, we presented a formal complaint against the Brazilian State to the Commission. In December 2015, the case was opened for processing. The Commission can issue recommendations to Brazil to redress the human rights violations related to Belo Monte and, if the State fails to comply, it can refer the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which has the power to issue a ruling condemning Brazil.
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