A group of about 80–120 demonstrators from Brazilian indigenous communities joined fishermen and activists in the occupation of a massive dam construction site in the Amazon rainforest.
The “Xingu Alive Forever” occupation targets the Belo Monte dam, constructed by Brazilian consortium Norte Energia on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River. If completed, the dam would be among the largest in the world, but locals fear it will block and dry up rivers that they use for traveling and fishing.
Demonstrators will not leave the site “until all demands are met,” according to the Xingu Alive website. They accused Norte Energia of going back on a deal it signed with Indigenous groups this summer after 150 people occupied the area for several weeks.
The company closed the Xingu River with a cofferdam, an instrument used to seal water flow and allow for construction work. This was done before ensuring another method was in place to transport boats and keep local business moving—contrary to the deal made this summer, according to the movement’s website.
According to Norte Energia’s statement, the group has “so far not presented any claim or justification for the invasion.”
The indigenous demonstrators and fishermen took the keys of trucks and tractors, forcing workers to leave the site on foot. The protest was peaceful, said Xingu Alive.
Norte Energia reported that protesters injured a driver who works at the construction site. “Some workers were held hostage and released hours later,” while the site “was completely evacuated to preserve the safety of 900 workers,” the company’s statement reads.
Protesters near the cofferdam, which spans about three miles, spoke to Amazon Watch about their concerns on Monday.
“We are witnessing the devastation of this land. The island of Pimental was completely destroyed, with a sole tree left standing, and the water is putrid. It is very shocking,” a protester told the non-governmental organization, which opposes the dam’s construction.
Xingu Alive said that 120 members of the local indigenous Xipaia, Kuruaia, Parakana, Arara, Juruna, and Assurini peoples are taking part in the protest at the dam’s earthen cofferdams in Pimental. The people united with an ongoing, 24-day-long occupation by local fishermen, while local farmers and other nearby residents are slated to take part in the demonstration. Norte Energia estimates a crowd of about 80.
When the dam is completed in 2019, it will likely flood an area of some 300 square miles near the Xingu river and would displace about 16,000 people, according to the Brazilian government as cited by Amazon Watch. Amazon Watch has estimated that likely 40,000 people in the area would have to be relocated.
The Brazilian government plans to use $1.2 billion to aid displaced locals, according to Amazon Watch.
The dam, which is estimated to cost around $18.5 billion, would be the third-largest dam in the world after China’s Three Gorges Dam and the Brazilian-Paraguayan Itaipu Dam if it is completed.
Its opponents also include Hollywood luminaries including “Avatar” director James Cameron, who in 2010, made a short documentary titled “Message from Pandora” about the dam, comparing the construction of the dam with events that took place in his blockbuster film.
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.