Photo Credits: Amazon Watch-Maira Irigaray
Located in the northern part of the Xingu River in Brazil, the Belo Monte Dam is the third-largest dam in the world. Over 20,000 people from the Xingu Indigenous Park have been forced to leave their communities and have lost their main resource of survival. A new threat has arisen, as Belo Sun Mining Corporation is looking to open a gold mine in Volta Grande, part of the Xingu River.
After the Belo Monte case meeting in the Inter-American System in December 2021, the AIDA legal team sent a detailed report to the IACHR in February 2022. The report focused on the status of the non-compliance by the Brazilian State of the Precautionary Measures granted in 2011.
In response, the State of Brazil sent insufficient information on the allegations of human rights violations suffered by the traditional communities and indigenous people affected by Belo Monte. The Brazilian government tried to excuse itself by arguing that the company that operates the hydroelectric plant would be responsible for the violations.
As part of AIDA’s commitment to local communities and organizations, in February 2023 we sent a second detailed report on the situation. The report focused on the negative impacts for 11 indigenous communities and 25 riverine communities affected by blockage of the river for electricity production. In particular, our report highlighted extreme poverty caused by the environmental degradation to the river.
In 2022, the Brazilian authorities internally recognized that there was an extinction of fishing in the Xingu River, as a result of drought and a decrease in the quality of its waters. This demonstrated the seriousness of the impacts that have been denounced by the communities, such as the inability of using the river water for cooking, bathing, or cultural activities without suffering from stomach and skin diseases. It also exposed the level of environmental degradation resulting from the large hydroelectric dams and how these mega-interventions have destroyed the traditional way of life of the Xingu people, putting their integrity and health at risk. In addition, our report highlighted the impacts on the mental health of these populations, who were forced to leave a life of interdependence and symbiosis with their environment. Communities that were sustained by their surroundings, now depend on welfare policies and charity in the cities to which they have been forced to relocate.
In the report AIDA asks the IACHR to follow up on the Precautionary Measures granted in 2011, to guarantee the life and integrity of the Xingu communities. This would require the Brazilian government to determine that the company that operates Belo Monte must guarantee a minimum essential amount of water in the natural course of the river, so that the ecosystem processes can resume functioning, guaranteeing the life of the river and its people.