Rule of Law

Brazilian judge blocks Belo Monte dam

(October 20, 2011) A Brazilian judge has stopped construction on the world’s third largest dam. The Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon would flood about 500 square kilometres – displacing about 20 000 indigenous people – as well as diverting 80% of the Xingu’s flow. This Environment News Service article details the long and tortuous battles the Brazilian courts, government and indigenous peoples have fought over the project.

Brazilian Judge Rules Belo Monte Dam Illegal

Environment News Service

BRASILIA, Brazil, October 19, 2011 (ENS) – A federal judge in Brazil has ruled that the environmental licensing of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon is illegal due to the lack of consultation with affected indigenous peoples.

In Monday’s court hearing, Federal Regional Appeals Court Judge Selene Maria de Almeida rejected arguments by Brazilian government lawyers that because the Belo Monte dam infrastructure and reservoirs would not be physically located on indigenous lands, there was no need for consultations with indigenous peoples.

Citing evidence from official sources and independent researchers, the judge concluded that the diversion of 80 percent of the Xingu River into artificial channels and three reservoirs would have devastating impacts downriver for the Arara, Juruna and Xikrin Kayapo indigenous peoples. There would be inevitable losses to the tribes’ ability to catch fish, raise crops, and navigate freely, she said.

The vote is the first step in a federal circuit court decision in a lawsuit filed in 2006 by the Federal Public Prosecutors’ Office that could ultimately bring the case before Brazil’s Supreme Court. If Judge Almeida’s decision is upheld by the high court, the Belo Monte dam project will be suspended immediately.

If it is ever built, the 11,000-megawatt dam in the state of Para would be the third largest in the world after China’s Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam on the Brazil-Paraguay border.

In her decision, Judge Almeida agreed with public prosecutors that the 2005 legislative decree authorizing construction of the Belo Monte dam is illegal because a consultation process with threatened indigenous communities – guaranteed under Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution – was not first carried out by Congress.

Read the full story here, or at Environment News Service.

Categories: Rule of Law

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1 reply »

  1. The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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