Brazil Halts Huge Dam Project in the Amazon

Score one for the side of human rights. Construction of the world’s third-largest dam on the Amazon’s Xingu River in Brazil is being suspended because the government didn’t get proper approval from the indigenous people it will harm.

Brazil’s Regional Federal Tribunal suspended the controversial Belo Monte dam project after finding that the Juruna, Arara and Xikrin tribes in the region were not consulted before the 2005 authorization by the Brazilian Congress, says International Rivers .

The project consortium Norte Energia, SA, let by energy company Eletrobas could be fined up to $250,000 per day if it fails to honor the suspension. That group is expected to appeal.

“The court’s decision highlights the urgent need for the Brazilian government and Congress to respect the federal constitution and international agreements on prior consultations with indigenous peoples regarding projects that put their livelihoods and territories at risk. Human rights and environmental protection cannot be subordinated to narrow business interests,” says Souza Prudente, the Brazilian federal judge who authored the ruling.

The Brazilian government is spending $93 billion on 20 hydro plants that threaten 2,462 square miles of the Amazon rainforest, including the Belo Monte, which would be the world’s third-largest dam.

On top of the environmental devastation to the rainforest, the environmental impact assessment of the project authored by Eletrobras and three of Brazil’s largest construction companies has been criticized for underestimating the socio-environmental impacts on communities living downstream from the dam.

Another huge dam project on the Teles Pires River is also being contested for many of the same reasons.

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