An indigenous girl navigates the Xingu River.
The Brazilian government signaled this week that it would no longer be promoting new mega-dams in the Amazon basin.
Paulo Pedrosa, the Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, told Brazilian newspaper O Globo that the government didn’t want to take on more battles against indigenous and traditional communities, who have bravely been defending their culture and territory against the impacts of large dams.
Activists and experts suggest the about-face may also have to do with mounting corruption scandals involving the state-owned construction companies behind the dam boom.
Coupled with the small number of dams included in the National Energy Plan, and a notable decrease in funding, the statement suggests a policy shift could be forthcoming for the Amazon nation that has long prioritized hydropower. This would be a surprising victory for AIDA and our allies who have long fought against the damaging energy projects, particularly in the wake of the socially and environmentally devastating Belo Monte Dam.
Brazil currently gets 70 percent of its energy from large dams, and had planned a series of dams in the Amazon basin that could have added 50 gigawatts of hydropower by 2050, according to government studies.
But the centerpiece of the dam boom, the Belo Monte Dam, shines a light on the just why that plan wouldn’t work. The world’s fourth largest dam has become a prime example of how not to produce energy in the 21st Century.
Belo Monte displaced more than thirty thousand people, caused extensive environmental devastation, and cut indigenous and traditional communities off from the river and forest that sustain them.
AIDA and our allies have been working against Belo Monte since its inception.
Representing indigenous and riverine communities, we filed a case against Brazil at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the human rights violations caused by the dam. We have also secured protective measures for affected populations.
Throughout, AIDA has provided extensive information about the environmental and human harms of the dam to the Commission and the government of Brazil. Our attorneys travel to the areas most affected by Belo Monte to gather victim testimony and update the communities on the proceedings.
Complementing our work on Belo Monte, AIDA has been a key player in a global campaign against the ongoing funding of large dams, which have no place on our rapidly changing planet. Beyond harming human communities and rivers, large dams also emit methane – a potent climate pollutant.
Through scientific reports, public outreach campaigns, and advocacy before international institutions, AIDA has been working for more than a decade to strengthen international standards applicable to large dams, and to promote real and appropriate energy solutions for the region.
We are confident that AIDA’s work on Belo Monte, coupled with our public outreach campaign, was pivotal to driving what seems like a substantial policy shift.
We applaud this potential advance, and will continue monitoring the situation and working with affected communities. We look forward to holding the Brazilian government to their commitment to protect the Amazon and the communities therein.