Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon

by Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)
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Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Empower Indigenous Brazilians to Save their Amazon
Water contamination by mining
Water contamination by mining

Building capacity and dialog

Together with our partners, we held a two-day seminar that brought together various legal, civil society, and public administration actors involved in the licensing of Belo Sun mine. We provided the opportunity for people from the Secretaria de Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade Pará (Semas) and Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) to speak, and during the interaction the coalition demonstrated their strength and reinforced the fact that the decision to license Belo Sun was only political. The Semas representative did not respond to our arguments about the problems with the environmental impact studies. A part of the seminar was dedicated to a prior consultation workshop with the Volta Grande riparian communities, which was very empowering because the leaders affirmed that they wanted to carry out their autonomous consultation protocols. And finally, the analyses of the defenders and prosecutors showed the lack of legality, transparency, and coherence of Semas and other governmental institutions.

Supporting legal actions

The Public Defender's Office initiated a lawsuit against Belo Sun as a response to a technical report presented by AIDA that points out several flaws in the analysis of impacts and area of coverage of the mining project. The Defenders’ office is requesting that the mining project's licenses be annulled since the necessary studies were not carried out with respect to the affected riverside communities. These communities were not consulted either, which would justify the nullity of the licenses. AIDA, together with International Rivers and ISA, prepared an amicus brief to support the defense of the riparian communities represented. We contributed with a technical document in response to Belo Sun's arguments that seek to hide the flaws of the project with arguments of authority, refusing to respond objectively to our questions about the chosen methodologies, studies on the cumulative impact of the dam, and possible failures of the tailings dam and contamination of the river. In addition, we made a contribution of legal analysis that justifies the annulment of the license given to the project due to the lack of adequate consultation with the traditional communities that inhabit the Xingu.

Calling for international action

In an action to denounce the government of Pará to the COP, last week we drafted a letter of concern addressed to the governments that are part of the LEAF Coalition and GIZ, which were about to sign an agreement to send resources for green policies to the state of Pará. In our letter we made clear the contradiction between the governor's promises and the actual environmental policy of the state. The letter seeks to hold the funding governments accountable for establishing clear and objective criteria so that their resources are not used in a way that perpetuates the current predatory practice in the state. The letter had the support of the deputies Vivi Reis and Marinor Brito, as well as the indigenous Alessandra Munduruku, who delivered the letter at the COP signing event.

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The Belo Monte Dam is the third-largest dam in the world. The dam is located in the northern part of the Xingu River in Brazil and covers 500 square kilometers of forest and farmland. Due to the dam’s operations, the people of the Xingu have lost a main resource of survival, and over 20,000 people have been forced to leave their communities. A similar situation could happen if Belo Sun Mining Corporation is situated in the region. Belo Sun is a gold mine located in Volta Grande, part of the Xingu River, and if put into operations could leech contaminating fluids, employ high quantities of cyanide and cause acidic waste to reach rivers.

In April, AIDA and Aliados Brasileños held a live stream event with six panelists, including public defenders, scientists, and representatives of stakeholder communities, to debate the effects of the Belo Sun mine. The 2-hour event helped bring visibility to the damage created by the Belo Monte dam to the communities and the ecosystem and amplified why Belo Sun will only destroy the Xingu even more. 

As part of our continued work with the communities in the region, AIDA has been working on a project with Indigenous youth affected by the Belo Monte dam. The project helps create and promote community empowerment. AIDA provided computers, tape recorders, and other communication equipment to communities to produce podcasts and videos showing their resistance and resilience, with the end goal of  lifting up their voices to stakeholder, other communities, and the general public. 

On July 18, 2021, a judge ruled that a provisional hydrograph needs to be implemented by the hydroelectric plant, thus ensuring that life in the Xingu continues. This needs to be implemented on a decaying energy production during 2021 and before February 2022, and should release enough water to maintain life in the river. AIDA is looking forward to the implementation of this provisional hydrograph on the Belo Monte dam which will allow Indigenous communities and people who depend on the river to survive, as well as maintaining the natural ecological cycles. Due to the current electricity crisis in Brazil, this decision is having a greater impact and pressure.

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Credit: Maria Irigaray
Credit: Maria Irigaray

AIDA, using its media outreach, has been supporting communities affected by the Belo Monte dam development project during local demonstrations to amplify their voices and bring attention to the violations of the right to water and life during the pandemic crisis, which are forcing vulnerable communities to expose themselves even more to guarantee the minimal protection from the State.

As a way to maximize energy production, Norte Energia –the company responsible of the Belo Monte dam- proposed a "Consensus Hydrograph". An hydrograph is a graph that shows the rate of water flow in relation to time, given a specific point or cross section, and is often used to evaluate water runoff on a particular site considering a development project. The proposed hydrograph leaves the flow of the Xingu River under the total control of the company, its design wasn’t based on scientific studies and it doesn’t guarantee the access to the water by local communities.

The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, IBAMA, issued a series of technical opinions pointing to the total unfeasibility of the proposed Consensus Hydrograph. The agency has repeatedly stated that the flows proposed are insufficient to maintain life in the Xingu. And that its implementation would represent a true ecological suicide. Regardless of the above, after the dam started its operations and the adaptation period passed, Norte Energia started using the proposed hydrograph that had been approved by the licensing process.

AIDA and partners, such as ISA and Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, denounced the true impacts of the proposed hydrograph based on the environmental impact assessment. AIDA also wrote a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming the violation of the Provisional Measures that were given to those groups and that should guarantee their rights to life and integrity.

In addition, AIDA supported a national complaint before the public prosecutor officer, where we argued not only the irreversible environmental impacts, but also the violations to rights and the expossure of several vulnerable communities of the region.

After all the pressure from the local communities and supporting organizations like AIDA, IBAMA determined, at the end of 2020, the implementation of a Provisional Hydrograph. This provision demanded an increased water flow from the Xingu, for example, for March the demand was a flow rate of 14,200m³/s for the Xingu, while Belo Monte’s hydrograph predicted only 4,000 m³/s. 

However, after strong pressure from the government and the energy sector, IBAMA contradicted the evidence of its own technical staff and signed an agreement with Belo Monte to reestablish the use of the ‘Consensus Hydrograph’, with no scientific basis for such.

This agreement is a serious threat to biodiversity and the lives of local communities. The main national environmental protection agencies have failed to adopt a serious commitment to the protection of life on the Xingu River.

AIDA, alongside with partners, continues to support local communities in their defense for their territory, their right to water and their survival. We know this is not an easy fight, it is not a short fight either, but it is one worth fighting.

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This year AIDA has been supporting indigenous and riverine communities affected by the Belo Monte dam in Brazil facing the impacts of COVID-19. These communities have been particularly vulnerable to the ongoing pandemic and we have worked to expose their situation.

From the moment the pandemic reached Brazil, we have been compiling and disseminating information about the differentiated impact COVID-19 has on the indigenous peoples of the Xingu region. We created and sent various international alerts about the situation of the communities, which the governments have failed to address and which continues to threaten their right to health and integrity.

The communities affected by Belo Monte, due to the impacts of the construction of the dam, have become dependent on external support to have access to food, water and income sources. In the face of the pandemic, the necessary isolation to protect indigenous health became an obstacle to meeting their basic needs. In addition, the current state of dismantling of indigenous institutions in Brazil and the national government's policy did not allow for the development and implementation of a plan to protect the health of indigenous people, a much needed plan that would guarantee them adequate care and that would protect them from agents that transmit the virus.

AIDA exposed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, how the mining activities, deforestation, and invasion of indigenous lands, together with the anti-environmental policy of the Brazilian government, became the channels of transmission of the COVID-19 for indigenous peoples in the region, and that continues to be a threat to their lives.

Note: you can find the alert (in Spanish) sent to the IACHR in this link -- https://aida-americas.org/es/recurso/alerta-a-la-cidh-sobre-la-situacion-de-pueblos-indigenas-de-brasil-ante-el-covid-19

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Maira Irigaray - Amazon Watch
Maira Irigaray - Amazon Watch

Today I want to share great news on our work representing communities affected by Belo Monte:

On May 13, the Norwegian oil fund, managed by the public bank Norges Bank Investment Management and considered the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, excluded twelve companies from its investment portfolio for ethical reasons, including Brazil's Eletrobras for its participation in the Belo Monte hydroelectric project. 

The fund follows the recommendations made each year by the Council on Ethics to ensure that investments meet certain criteria. In this case the Council’s recommendation was due to the participation of the Brazilian state-owned company in the project, which is associated with serious human rights violations against indigenous peoples.

AIDA - as part of a joint civil society effort - informed the Council of the situation of the indigenous and riverine populations affected by the project, its social and environmental impacts, the operational situation of the dam, and the current status of national and international legal actions brought against the project.

The Council noted that the Belo Monte project, run by the Norte Energia consortium - of which Eletrobras is a part - caused "greater pressure on indigenous lands, the disintegration of the social structures of indigenous peoples and the deterioration of their ways of life" with the forced displacement of some 20,000 people.

We believe the Council's decision should be applauded because it discourages the continuation of unsustainable and ill-named development projects that threaten the survival of indigenous and traditional peoples, as is the case with Belo Monte.

It is essential that banks, international financial institutions and monetary funds take into account the likely impacts of the projects they finance. Supporting socially and environmentally sustainable projects instead of initiatives that prioritize economic benefit over the protection of human rights and the environment demonstrates responsible and ethical investment.

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Organization Information

Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @AIDAorg
Project Leader:
Astrid Puentes
Lima, Brazil
$17,812 raised of $20,000 goal
 
389 donations
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