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
Removing vegetation for the dam reservoir
Removing vegetation for the dam reservoir

This has been quite a month for the people of Altamira, Brazil, the city where the world’s third-largest dam is starting to flood an area the size of Chicago.

On December 21 of last year, we were elated when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights finally—after four years of considering the legal documents we submitted—opened a case against Brazil. That means Brazil’s government must respond to claims of human rights violations caused by the Belo Monte Dam.

Then on January 11, we were even more elated to hear that the Federal Justice of Altamira suspended the Belo Monte Dam’s operating license. That action prevented the filling of the reservoirs.

The suspension was ordered because the government has still not restructured the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) of Altamira—as it was ordered to do in 2010. The Foundation is partly in charge of implementing the precautionary measures that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued years ago to protect the people affected by the dam.

But on January 26, a Federal Regional Court overturned the order that suspended the operating license, once again clearing the way for the dam to begin filling the reservoirs. The judge explained his decision as in the best interest of the economy and public order. He even said the suspension would prevent implementation of plans to benefit indigenous peoples—plans that should have become realities well before the dam was allowed to operate!

This is yet another attack on the rights of the affected indigenous communities. The decision manipulates the arguments of public interest, order, security and the economy, and then uses the plans to justify why it is not possible to suspend the operating license. The bottom line is that the operating license never should have been granted in the first place without the fulfillment of those plans.

AIDA’s attorney Flavia do Amaral Vieira just returned from a trip to Altamira, where she participated on a strategic planning meeting with local movements and affected communities, as part of our on-going work to promote justice for the communities affected by Belo Monte.

Thanks to your donations, we are able to remain committed to this project!  Please consider a monthly gift to help us continue this critical work!

As always, thank you so much for your support of AIDA’s efforts to protect the indigenous people of Brazil.

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Even as the reservoirs of the Belo Monte dam are beginning to fill deep in the Brazilian Amazon, the controversial project is continuing to meet with international scrutiny.

We’re particularly proud to report that the day we’ve long awaited has arrived – the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has finally opened our case on Belo Monte!

Four years after we filed the original petition, the Commission has determined there to be sufficient grounds to open the case, and push the Brazilian government to respond to the many allegations of human rights violations caused by the massive hydroelectric project.

We hope and believe that now is the time for Brazil to respond comprehensively to our claims about:

  • the absence of consultation and free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities;
  • the lack of participation and adequate assessment of environmental impact; and
  • the forced displacement and violations of the rights to life, health, integrity and justice of indigenous peoples, riverine communities, and residents of the city of Altamira. 

Based on Brazil’s response, the Commission will then determine if requirements have been met to have the case admitted and, if so, to establish whether or not the project caused the alleged human rights violations.

Above all, the opening of the case is a victory for the affected indigenous and riverine communities we represent, and the local social movements, who have endured for so many years in the face of adversity. Despite the continuing construction of the dam, they have shown nothing but strength and determination in their search for justice and reparation.

In December, the communities met with members of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights in Altamira, who will compile their findings from the visit into a report to be presented in June to the UN Human Rights Council.  Immediately after their visit, the Working Group issued a statement that, among other things, urged the Brazilian government to respect human rights, not sacrifice them in the name of economic development.

Under such pointed international pressure, we believe the time has finally come for Brazil to answer for the severe harm Belo Monte has caused to lives of those who live in its shadow. 

Thank you for continuing to support our long fight for justice for the people of the Xingú River basin.  Our work and your support continue to be so important to the lives and livelihoods of these communities.

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In the Amazon rainforest, families living on the Xingú River are about to be flooded out of their homes. Last Tuesday, November 24, Brazil's government issued a six-year operating license for Belo Monte Dam, which means two reservoirs are about to be filled.

We're joining our partners in Brazil in asking for an emergency court order to revoke the operating license.

If the dam is allowed to operate, the river below it will dry up, decimating the local fishing economy. Indigenous communities upstream, some still living in isolation, will lose their fishing areas, hunting grounds, their homes, and their ancestral lands.

We have a chance to save these communities, forests, and ways of life.  You can hep us with a donation today!  And your recurring monthly gift will receive a one-month match by Global Giving! 

Brazil's government has completely ignored its international human rights obligations to the people of the Xingú. To hold the government accountable to international law, AIDA has taken the people's case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to the United Nations.

We need your help now more than ever to stop dams like Belo Monte. Because, to make matters worse, dams like Belo Monte-the world's third largest-contribute to climate change. When flooded vegetation rots, especially in the tropics, it releases enormous amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Your support of our work will allow us to immediately:

  • Travel to affected communities, where we will develop legal and advocacy strategies with local leaders to ensure that this kind of destruction never happens again.
  • Go to the United Nations climate talks in Paris to raise international awareness of the harms large dams cause to climate and human rights.
  • Document the damage done to the people of the Xingú and submit the evidence to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations.

The situation in Brazil is dire! People have already been relocated far from their homes. President Dilma Rousseff said Brazil would live up to its international commitments, but her government approved the operating license despite ongoing human rights violations caused by the dam.

But there is still hope-and your help can make a difference. As Antonia Melo, leader of the Xingú Alive Forever Movement, said:

"We are so grateful for AIDA's help and concern. It makes us feel less lonely, and that there is still hope for a better future."

With your generous contribution, AIDA will advocate for an end to this outrageous injustice.

Thank you for your support!

 

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The operating license for the dam has been stalled
The operating license for the dam has been stalled

Just yesterday we received news that the Brazilian government has delayed issuing an operating license for the Belo Monte dam. In their technical analysis of the dam, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) concluded that the conditions required to approve Belo Monte's Operating License have not yet been met. Ten of twelve conditions identified by IBAMA as pending compliance are considered essential for granting the license.

Until the operating consortium, Norte Energía, addresses these conditions, the project will be delayed and the dam's reservoir will not be flooded.

"We welcome IBAMA's thorough evaluation of Belo Monte, a project that has already had severe impacts on the environment and human rights," said Astrid Puentes Riaño, co-director of AIDA. "Moving forward, it is crucial that all conditions are met, and measures to protect the people and environment of the Xingú River basin are fully implemented before the license may be granted."

For more than five years, AIDA has supported indigenous and local communities and organizations in their fight to denounce the negative socio-environmental impacts of the Belo Monte project. The conclusions outlined by IBAMA reinforce the arguments of AIDA's and others who have long opposed the dam.

AIDA and partner organizations have long argued that conditions do not exist for the approval of licenses for Belo Monte. Essential services that would guarantee minimum rights to the displaced population remain outstanding, including potable water and health and sanitation services.  In 2011, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights granted precautionary measures in favor of affected indigenous communities. The severity of the project's human rights violations have been reinforced in a report by the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) of Brazil, to which AIDA contributed, as well as in information gathered by the health and indigenous protection authorities and the Brazilian Public Ministry.

AIDA expects that IBAMA's technical report will be taken into consideration when making the final decision on the dam's operating license. The outright denial of the license would serve as a paradigm for future mega-projects planned in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as other parts of the region, sending a clear message that economic development projects must not engage in human rights violations.

Your support has enabled AIDA to demand that the Brazilian government and international institutions recognize these oversights. Help us continue our advocacy today and your monthly recurring donation will be matched by Global Giving!

Thank you, as always, for your generous support.

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The last home standing. | Sabrina Nascimento
The last home standing. | Sabrina Nascimento

Around Altamira, homes are being destroyed. In parts of the city, the familiar walls that have stood witness to birth and death, that have seen children grow and families evolve, have been reduced to rubble.

On the avenue 7th of September, Antonia's house is the last left standing. Her street is empty, piles of concrete all that remain of her friends and neighbors. Norte Energía has given her 10 days to evacuate.  On Tuesday, Antonia, a local activist and leader of Movimento Xingú Vivo, harvested five liters of sweet açai berries from the tree in her yard. Soon it too will be gone.

“[President] Dilma says the dams produce cheap electricity, but the cost is paid here in the destruction of the environment and the destruction of people’s lives,” she said in a conversation with The Guardian last December.

As an increasing number of neighborhoods are destroyed, and families displaced, the construction of Belo Monte continues. Beyond the town, the natural flow of the Xingú River, the wild waterway that has, for centuries, carved its way through the Brazilian Amazon, has abruptly begun to change course. Riverine communities are already feeling the effects of their changing landscape, their lives and livelihoods cut off by what will soon be the third largest dam in the world.

The operators of Belo Monte have begun provisional closures of the river in order to proceed with the last phases of the dam’s construction, which is now more than 70 percent complete. With work moving steadily along, the operators recently requested the dam’s operating license from the Brazilian Institute for Environmental & Natural Resources (IBAMA). That request signals the frightening final stage of the dam’s approval process. If granted, the license would authorize the filling of the dam and, thus, the final diversion of the Xingú River. The dam would thereafter begin partial operation.

We know that full operation of Belo Monte will worsen an already dire situation for communities affected by the construction of the dam. Already thousands have been forcibly relocated from their homes, in violation of their human rights, and only a fraction of those displaced have received any sort of minimum compensation.

In light of the risk established by the dam’s potential licensure, we at AIDA are even more determined to stop this process in its tracks. In July, alongside local NGOs Justiça Global, Sociedad Paraense de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos and Movimiento Xingú Vivo para Siempre, AIDA filed a brief with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of the affected communities.

In the brief we urged the Commission to maintain precautionary measures granted in favor of the indigenous communities of the Xingú River basin. We argued, based on our fact finding and supported by a report of the Socio-Environmental Institute of Brazil, that the social and environmental situation surrounding Belo Monte is urgent and only worsening, and that measures have not been taken to avoid irreparable damage to riverine communities. 

Our arguments were reinforced by a report filed by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office after a mission to Altamira in July. Through recorded testimonies, they proved that the forced relocations are depriving families of their means of subsistence, and violating their human rights. By ignoring the importance of maintaining the families’ lifestyle, the relocation is in violation of the principles of the project’s environmental basic plan.

In the face of such blatant disregard for human rights, we are continuing the fight to stop the damage being caused by Belo Monte. We do so alongside Antonia, and a strong coalition of affected peoples and organizations on the ground in Brazil.

“Brazil must comply with its national and international human rights obligations”, said María José Veramendi Villa, senior attorney at AIDA.  “We won’t cease our efforts until Brazil is held responsible for violating the human rights of the indigenous and riverine communities affected by the Belo Monte dam.” 

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Organization Information

Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AIDAorg
Project Leader:
Astrid Puentes
Lima, Brazil
$18,235 raised of $20,000 goal
 
397 donations
$1,765 to go
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