In Xingu management plan, Brazil leaves communities without water
Photo: Amazon Watch / Maíra Irigaray.
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20 September 2018
The proposed Xingu River management plan puts at risk the people, plants and animals of the Amazon region. AIDA requested that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urge Brazil to stop the plan and establish a socially and environmentally appropriate alternative.
Washington, D.C. and Altamira, Brazil. By authorizing the construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the heart of the Amazon, the Brazilian government endorsed a management plan for the flow of the Xingu River that would leave the indigenous and riverine communities of the area without the water they need to survive. The plan is in a testing phase but is expected to be implemented next year, once all the turbines of the hydroelectric plant are installed.
The Interamerican Association of Environment Defense (AIDA) sent a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights detailing the serious socio-environmental risks of the plan. In it, we requested that the Commission urge Brazil to stop the plan’s implementation and create an alternative plan that guarantees biodiversity and protects the communities’ ways of life.
“The authorized plan for the management of the river’s flow threatens the existence of indigenous and riverine communities, and places at risk of extinction the fish and the forests—natural resources on which the physical and cultural lives of the communities depend,” said Liliana Ávila, Senior AIDA Attorney.
The plan, called a consensual hydrogram, establishes the volume of water that will pass through a specific part of the river, called the Vuelta Grande, and the part that will be diverted for energy production. It is intended to artificially reproduce the natural flow of the river in times of flood and drought.
Norte Energía, the consortium in charge of the dam, proposes an average minimum flow rate of 4,000 cubic meters per second over the course of a year, and 8,000 cubic meters per second for the following year, beginning in 2019. It proposes a minimum flow rate of 700 cubic meters per second for the dry season.
The report sent to the Commission, however, details scientific and social evidence that demonstrates that these water levels are significantly lower than the historical river flow and do not guarantee that fish and alluvial forests can survive the proposed reduction in the short- and medium-term.
The evidence—which includes information from both the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and community monitoring—also shows that some aquatic species, such as chelonians, can only feed and reproduce with minimum flows of 13,000 cubic meters per second in times of flooding, and that the volume proposed for the dry season could make the river unnavigable.
“The management plan did not take into account the monitoring done by the Juruna people in collaboration with the Federal University of the State of Pará and the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA),” said AIDA attorney Marcella Ribeiro. “In 2016, with water levels higher than those proposed, communities were already reporting the mass die-off of fish.”
AIDA sent the report to the Commission as part of a formal complaint against the Brazilian State for the human rights violations caused by the dam’s construction.
In May, together with partner organizations, we presented our final arguments in the case, evidencing damages already caused, including the forced displacement of indigenous and riverine communities, the massive death of fish, differentiated damages to men and women, and threats to the survival of the communities.