Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch
May 23, 2012 | Iara Lee
In every corner of the world, we see unfathomably huge hydroelectric dams that destroy entire ecosystems and indigenous livelihoods. The notorious Three Gorges Dam in China has its rivals on all other continents, from the proposed Grand Inga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the James Bay Project in Canada. In these and many other examples, the results have been similar: thousands are displaced from their homes, species are going extinct, farmland is flooded and rendered useless, and water-borne diseases flourish. Despite the many alternatives to these projects and the potential for improving energy efficiency, the mega-dams of the 20th century are only growing bigger and more popular in the 21st.
The Belo Monte Dam and the Xingu River
A few years ago, my film crew had the opportunity to travel to the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, where the Brazilian government has for decades tried to build the Belo Monte, which would be the world's third largest hydroelectric dam. Our crew's visit coincided with a summit in the city of Altamira, where 1,000 people from various indigenous communities joined national and international supporters to express their unequivocal opposition to the project. The broad mobilization was inspired in part by credible estimates that 20,000 people would be displaced from their traditional territory. Some experts say that 40,000 would be affected if the dam were built.
We produced a short film, Battle for the Xingu, in which we interview some participants in the summit and visit some of the affected communities. Advocacy groups have used the film to inform the international community about the project's implications and it has screened at many short film festivals worldwide.
The film explores the tension between violent and nonviolent tactics in resisting this project. In particular. indigenous activists used a symbolic act of violence in which they cut a dam advocate's arm to represent their commitment to preventing the dam's construction. While we applaud the movement's decision to overwhelmingly embrace nonviolent tactics, in this film we wanted to show the tensions that arise when communities feel they have few options in preventing the destruction of their homeland.
May 31 to be Day of National Solidarity
May 21, 2012 | Darrin Mortenson
From the Andes to the Amazon, indigenous and mestizo groups across Peru plan to mobilize on May 31 to resist industrial development projects that they say would destroy vital natural water sources and threaten community survival.
Organizers say the simultaneous marches and blockades will send a clear message to national leaders in Lima and erect a symbolic bridge between regional resistance movements, including ongoing protests against a U.S. owned mine in the highlands of Cajamarca, Newmont Mining's so-called Conga gold mine, and a rapidly mounting movement against another giant American company, ConocoPhillips, which plans to dig some 48 exploratory oil wells at the headwaters of the Nanay River, the principal source of drinking water and main fishing grounds for the half-million residents of the jungle city of Iquitos.
ConocoPhillips's consortium partners include Canadian drillers Gran Tierra and Talisman Energy. Talisman has recently made headlines as Achuar indigenous leaders have ordered the company out of their Peruvian territories.
May 21, 2012 | Maira Irigaray
It could have been a day like any other day, but it wasn't. On the afternoon of May 3rd, a phone call changed my routine, and I found myself on a journey deep into the Indigenous Park of Xingu.
The Park, located in the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil, is home to some 5,500 indigenous individuals spread throughout 16 ethnic groups. I'd be traveling last-minute with a team of doctors on a mission. Arriving at Piaraçu, the team headed for Pakaya, a Juruna village, and I went to Piaraçu to meet with our Kayapó partners. In the meeting, the group decided I should meet with Chief Raoni and began trying to reach him in his village to see if I could go there. After waiting for two hours, I was told: "He is waiting for you," and that was it. Going to Raoni's was no longer a choice, but my duty. It was starting to get late, and I still had to meet with the Juruna at some point.
I went then to the Juruna village in search of a way to get to Raoni's village. More doctors had arrived, and they were having a party. Everybody was beautifully painted to welcome those who where there voluntarily helping with alternative medicine. One of them had a car, and kindly offered to drive me to the city to buy gas for the boat ride. Terrible road, and four hours later we came back with the gas in the dark.
May 16, 2012
Take Action Now!
Brazilian President Dilma can save the Amazon from destruction. Tell her to veto the new Forest Code!
Following years of intense pressure from the agribusiness sector, Brazil's parliament has approved destructive reforms to the country's forest protection. President Dilma has just 9 remaining days to veto this hatchet job before it becomes law. With the world watching, which side of history will she choose to be on? Will her legacy be Amazon ruin? Or, will she demonstrate courage and act on behalf of future generations?
YOU can urge President Dilma to do the right thing for Brazil, the Amazon and the planet. Take action now by signing this petition, tell her to veto the new Forest Code!
An unprecedented site visit by the IAHCR sheds light on testimony of abuses and a surprising admission from the state
May 15, 2012 | Kevin Koenig
Sarayaku in Ecuador is one of the more unique places in the Amazon. The community has beaten back oil drilling plans on their lands for over a decade. They have better internet in their roadless, remote rainforest community than in the capital city of Quito. Their leaders have risen to national prominence; an award-nominated young filmmaker from the community just completed his 4th documentary. Solar panels are powering a good share the region's energy needs, and their plan de vida for future development and land management is visionary – and does not include oil extraction. Or any resource extraction for that matter.
Sarayaku is the name of both the community and a people – a subgroup of Amazonian Kichwa that number roughly 2,000. The name means "pueblo del medio dia" or People of Midday – for the time when the sun is at its zenith directly above their lands. They have come to symbolize the indigenous resistance against oil, logging, and mining in the indigenous rainforest lands of Ecuador’s southeastern Amazon that stretches to the Peruvian border. And Sarayaku is leading the charge in a little known lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government that has wide sweeping implications for indigenous rights over resources in the Americas.
So it was par for the course that Sarayaku was able to turn a late April ploy by the government to delay a verdict in their nine year legal case against the state into a jujutsu move in the community's favor. Sarayaku originally filed the case in 2004 before the Inter-American Human Commission for Human Rights (IAHCR) against the Ecuadorian government over rights abuses suffered when an Argentine oil company began conducting seismic testing in search of oil reserves with the aid of Ecuador's military. The entrance of the oil company into Sarayaku lands occurred without the consultation or consent of the community. Their territory was militarized, and community members were threatened, intimidated, and several detained and abused by the military at a company facility.