BELO MONTE AND TAPAJOS DAMS CASES

Tribunal Lima 2014 / Paris 2015


Belo Monte dam case

Judge: Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch


Informations held in the Tribunal of Lima:

The Belo Monte hydroelectric plant is being built by the Norte Energia Consortium company in the Xingu river in the state of Pará, Brazil. The plant has a planned capacity of 11,000 MW, making it the second largest Brazilian hydroelectric dam, and the world’s third largest. This dam will devastate an area over 516 km2 of the Brazilian Amazon and cause the displacement of 20,000 people, affecting the livelihoods of dozens of indigenous families and communities. The Xingu basin is highly biodiverse and is home to 25,000 indigenous people from 24 ethnic groups such as the Kayapó, Arara, Juruna, Araweté, Xikrin, Asurini and Parakanã.


Objective of the Tribunal: present the case to the Tribunal.


Verdict of the Tribunal:

The Brazilian government is implementing the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam to provide 11,000 megawatts of power. Belo Monte is considered to be the world’s third largest dam. At this time, the dam project is about 50% completed. The dam’s reservoir will flood 668 square kilometers, has drained and diverted nearly 90 percent of the flow of the Xingu river for 100 kilometers around the “big bend”, affecting all the fauna of the river and causing the displacement of approximately 40,000 indigenous and riverine people. There are 3-4 additional dams planned upstream that would flood a huge area of the Xingu National Park.

Some 22 lawsuits have been brought against the Dam in Brazil, most by the Federal Public Ministry. Several are pending decision by the Supreme Court. While these lawsuits have at times lead to temporary suspensions of project, none of the cases have been ruled on and thus have not provided any remedies. Similarly, the precautionary measures which were granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, were ignored by the Brazilian government who has vowed not to comply with requested measures.


Not only are the rights of nature affected, but also those of indigenous peoples linked to the territories where the project is developed. The right to prior consultation has been disregarded, and worse still, the existence of indigenous peoples ignored. Indigenous peoples have lost their food sovereignty, cannot fish because the fish populations have declined significantly already, and the dam is preventing free migration of important fish species. The people have no clean water; young people are migrating away from their communities. Construction companies have created divisions within the community. Corruption and enforcement processes ignore and violate nature.


Finally, the claim that the hydropower proposed for Brazil falls under the banner of “clean energy” is false. The mega-dams will collectively cause major impact to the rivers and the rainforests as well as the hydrological cycle of the forest. The dam will cause the release of huge quantities of methane, a global warming gas that is 50x more potent that CO2.

The Tribunal accepted the case and provides that a special session be held in Brazil to hear the case.




Mega-Dams in Brazil: Belo Monte and Tapajos

Judge: Felicio Pontes

Presenter: Gert-Peter Bruch(Planète Amazone, France)  

Christian Poirier (Amazon Watch)

Cacique Raoni Kayapo, Antonia Mello(Xingu Vivo), Munduruku and Yawalapiti representatives


Informations held in the Tribunal of Paris:

The Xingu Basin is one of Mother Earth’s richest areas of biological and cultural diversity, home to 25,000 indigenous people from 40 ethnic groups. Gert-Peter Bruch (Planete Amazone) presented the case of how the Brazilian mega-dams were among the greatest crimes being committed against Mother Earth due to the magnitude of the destruction it would cause to the Amazon by diverting up to 80% of the Xingu river (a major tributary of the Amazon), destroying ecosystems and forcing the displacement of up to 40,000 people from indigenous communities.


Christian Poirier (Amazon Watch) told the Tribunal that it should not take these two dam projects in isolation as they were just the beginning of a wave of 60-70 such mega-dam projects being planned that could lead to over 5,000 square km of pristine rainforest being deforested. Mr Poirier gave evidence of how the Brazilian state had ignored findings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for breaches of ILO 169 (right of indigenous communities to prior, informed consultation) and how this demonstrated the Brazilian government’s lack of accountability and respect for the rule of law. Eye witness testaments were provided from Chief Cacique Raoni Kayapi of the Yawalapiti people and Chief Antonia Mello of the Munduruku people.   Chief Kayapi told the Tribunal how he had been defending Mother Earth against such projects for the last 25 years and how he hoped his testament to the Tribunal would bring others from the international community to join his people’s struggles on behalf of humanity and Mother Earth. Chief Mello described how the actions of the Brazilian government was allowing the assassination of her community’s way of life, a way of life that had lived in harmony with Mother Earth for hundreds of years. Her people, she vowed, would not negotiate on the fundamental rights of Mother Earth, nor on their fundamental right to their way of life to live in harmony with her.


© An initiative of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

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