Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

Freeing the Xingu

June 15, 2012 | Atossa Soltani

Freeing the Xingu

Seeing the majestic Xingu River being dammed is heartbreaking;
this morning, there was hope.

Today's daring grassroots action to "free the Xingu" was one of the most inspirational acts of resistance I have witnessed in 15 years as Amazon Watch Executive Director.

As I photographed overhead from a helicopter, hundreds of people used their bodies to spell out what they have demanded for decades: Stop Belo Monte.

I was overwhelmed by the symbolism. Protesters dug a channel through the earthen coffer dam, restoring the flow and "freeing" the mighty Xingu. They erected crosses in honor of hundreds of people murdered for defending the Amazon, yet there they were standing up for their river and their people.

As long as they resist, we will continue to stand by them. Already over a million people around the globe have rallied behind this effort. Can the defenders of the Xingu count on you, too?

On the Eve of Rio+20: Ruin and Resistance on the Xingu

June 14, 2012 | Mitch Anderson

The fabled Xingu River, with its dark blue waters and unusual rock formations, is a 1230-mile-long river in the north of Brazil, and one of the principal tributaries of the mighty Amazon river. Here in the lower Xingu, on an 80-kilometer bend through the ancestral territory of several indigenous tribes, the Brazilian government is moving ahead with construction of the third-largest dam in the world and one of the Amazon's most controversial "development" projects – the Belo Monte Dam. In the distance, just above the pale scraped shore in the center of the photograph, there is a small white marker; this is the proposed site of the eventual dam. To the west (right) the river water will be stanched by the dam and diverted into a gigantic reservoir, flooding hundreds of square kilometers of rainforest, farms, and portions of the urban center of the Amazonian town of Altamira. To the east (left), the river's flow will be reduced to a malaria-infested trickle, depriving downriver communities of their lifeline.

Ruin and Resistance on the Xingu

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Indigenous Voices at Rio+20

June 13, 2012 | Christian Poirier

Nhakre Xikrin and her son

Meet Nhakre Xikrin and her son, members of the Kranh Xikrin Kayapó community high on the banks of the Xingu River in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.

Last time I saw Nhakre, she told me she had heard about machines moving in and ripping through the forest, and how she had seen strange barges charging up the mighty river carrying supplies to the site of the looming Belo Monte dam. The boats had already tainted the water her family depends on; fish were becoming harder to find as the river's flow was diverted.

While world leaders gear up to talk about sustainable development at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the Brazilian government's costs-be-damned attitude about the Belo Monte dam illustrates a frightening hypocrisy between a truly "green" economy and the human and environmental costs of schemes that destroy the Amazon and its peoples.

I'm currently in the Xingu region and will soon be headed for Rio with a host of indigenous leaders ready to speak out about the dam that threatens to destroy them.

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Countdown Begins for Chevron in Canada

June 9, 2012 | Paul Paz y Miño

Photo from Crude Reflections

After months of suspense, the Ecuadorian rainforest communities have finally opened up the first front in what is likely to be a worldwide legal battle to force Chevron to pay its $18 billion ruling for environmental devastation in the Amazon.

On May 30, the Ecuadorians' Canadian lawyer, Alan Lenczner, filed suit in Ontario provincial court in Toronto, asking the court to seize the company's subsidiaries, Chevron Canada Ltd. and Chevron Finance Canada Ltd. These two companies' assets include offshore oil production in Newfoundland, tar sands operations in Alberta, and a refinery and gasoline stations in British Columbia.

Here is the filing, and here is a Q&A issued by the legal team.

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Three Years after the Tragedy of Bagua and Little Has Changed

June 6, 2012 | Gregor MacLennan

The violent clashes in 2009 left 34 dead and over 200 injured in the worst violence that Peru has seen in recent history.

Three years ago yesterday, Peruvian police, in an attempt to end 55 days of peaceful indigenous protests across the Amazon basin, opened fire on a group of protesters at "Devil's Curve", near the town of Bagua in northern Peru. The violent clashes that ensued left 34 dead and over 200 injured in the worst violence that Peru has seen in recent history. Each group of protestors had their own fight - a gold mine in the ancestral territory of the Awajun, the ongoing contamination from 40 years of oil drilling in Corrientes, ongoing spills from the Camisea Gas project - but they were brought together by a common cause: fighting the oppressive policies and new legislation from the Garcia government that undermined indigenous rights and opened up the Amazon to foreign investment and extractive industries.

Today, Peru has a new government under Ollanta Humala. The approval of a new consultation law soon after Humala's appointment brought hope to the indigenous movement, but those hopes faded with Humala's response to massive mobilizations against the $4.8 billion Conga open-pit mining project in Cajamarca. Humala clamped down on protests and reshuffled the cabinet, marking a 180-degree turn from the promise of change from the failed neoliberal development and environmental policies of the Garcia administration.

Today, the fragile ecosystems and critical watersheds of Peru's Andes and Amazon are under greater threat than ever before from the ongoing expansion of oil drilling and mining throughout the region. From the Achuar peoples' protest against proposed drilling by Talisman Energy in the Amazon, to marches through the streets of Iquitos against the threat to the city's drinking water by ConocoPhillips, and increasing number of indigenous peoples are speaking out in defense of their water and their future.

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