Support Indigenous Occupation of the Belo Monte Dam Site Now Entering Day 7
June 27, 2012 | Atossa Soltani
I wanted to share this urgent update about the escalating resistance to the destructive Belo Monte dam complex in the Brazilian Amazon. Please take a moment to read this update and support the indigenous and riverbank communities of the Xingu!
In the final days of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, several hundred members of the Xikrin, Juruna and Arara indigenous peoples affected by the Belo Monte Dam began an indigenous-led occupation of the construction site on Pimental Island in the Xingu River. The occupation – now in its 7th day – is gaining strength as more indigenous inhabitants come to join the blockade. Indigenous leaders have set up a peaceful encampment in the middle of the earthen coffer dam, confiscated keys to various trucks and earth moving equipment and stopped all construction works in the area. This action comes on the heels of a series of inspiring actions the past few weeks in the Xingu and in Rio by the people who face serious loss of their forests, their livelihoods and culture.
This protest is specifically calling attention to the failure on the part of the dam building consortium to address the grave impacts to the lives and livelihoods of the region's indigenous inhabitants. These – already being felt just from early stages of dam construction – stem from the diversion of the majority of the flow of the Xingu River away from the 62-mile stretch known as the Big Bend. Among the concerns cited by the indigenous leaders are their inability to use the river for travel thereby isolated without access; serious decline in fish stocks, their main source of protein; decline in water quality which is used for drinking and bathing; health impacts from anticipated rise in malaria and dengue fever, among others.
On Monday, a local judge rejected an eviction order request from NESA (the dam building consortium) for the police to forcibly remove the occupiers. The judge ruled that the indigenous communities' grievances were legitimate and that the government and companies needed to negotiate with them and address their concerns. Tomorrow, officials from the Brazilian government agency FUNAI and Electronorte (State-owned power company and the main stakeholder in the dam) are scheduled to travel to the occupation to dialogue with the communities.
Meanwhile, authorities have begun a crackdown on leading members of the Movimento Xingu Vivo, the Xingu Alive Movement for organizing several actions in mid-June. At the request of Electronorte, authorities are seeking arrest warrants for at least 11 local activists and residents. The hearing was held today and the court is expected to rule tomorrow. The list includes members of the Xingu Alive Movement, a priest, and even a fisherman whose house was destroyed to make way for the dam.
Amazon Watch's team has sprung into action mobilizing the international media and getting the story out. Last week at the Rio+20 earth summit we accompanied indigenous leaders Chief Raoni and Sheyla Juruna as they spoke out against Belo Monte in many different spaces. I changed my departure plans, staying in Brazil in order to support these latest developments. Our team has been coordinating media outreach, mobilizing funding and international observers, and supporting the legal defense of the local leaders facing criminal charges and who face imminent arrests.
I am calling on your support. Please make a generous donation to the Xingu Urgent Action Fund at this critical moment to enable Amazon Watch and our local partners to carry out this important work. Don't forget to share this update with your personal networks and stay tuned for more news.