Brazilian tribes join in opposition of hydropower development

Hundreds of members from four indigenous Amazonian tribes have formed an alliance to oppose a number of hydropower projects planned or already under-construction on Brazil’s Teles Pires, Juruena and Tapajos rivers.

The group, which includes representatives from the Apiaka, Kayabi, Munduruku and Rikbaktsa, argues that more than 250 hydroelectric plants and dams threaten the boundaries of their land and pose a significant threat to their livelihood.

“We will continue to fight for our collective rights, for the constitutionality guaranteed right to exclusive use of our natural resources and lands, and for ownership of our traditional territories to ensure our physical and cultural survival,” a statement issued by the alliance said.

The group argues that construction of many projects began with rushed or incomplete impact studies, and, in some cases, ignored protections guaranteed by both Brazilian federal law and International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169. Per ILO Convention 169, Brazil is not to authorize the use of water resources for hydroelectric projects without having previously completed independent environmental impact assessments and consulting with affected indigenous peoples.

“We were never consulted, nor did we give our consent for the destruction of our sacred spaces,” the group said.

Mentioned specifically within the group’s manifest are the 1,800-MW Teles Pires and 700-MW Sao Manoel — each of which has been plagued throughout their development with court-ordered work stoppages and questions regarding the validity of their requisite studies and approvals.

According to the alliance, many of the injunctions were issued by local judges before being overturned by Brazil’s Federal, Superior and Supreme courts.

“We have denounced the judicial branch through its court presidents, who are denying independence to the judiciary by supporting construction projects that favor powerful economic and political groups, when the first right to be protected should be human life and the right to human dignity,” the group said. “In doing so, they compromise democracy, the republic and shame the right that the non-Indian themselves created.”

In addition to the immediate suspension of the Sao Manoel project, the group is also calling the government to demarcate and ratify their territories, and for guaranteed health and education services.

“In conclusion, we inform all the powers of the state that we were never consulted and we never gave our consent for the construction of the hydroelectric dams,” the group said. has previously reported that Brazil’s 11.2-GW Belo Monte plant, located on the Xingu River, has faced similar opposition from unrelated aboriginal groups.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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