Threats to the Brazilian Amazon
Brazil's remote Amazon heartlands are threatened by industrial developments including the creation of massive hydroelectric dams, deforestation for livestock, invasive extraction projects such as mining, natural gas and oil drilling, and the construction of industrial waterways to transport these natural resources.
Powerful political and economic interests are accelerating infrastructure expansion to reap short-term profits without heeding enormous social and environmental costs. Continued development at this scale is unsustainable. Additionally, many forest communities oppose the detrimental impacts of these industrial projects on their lands, livelihoods and health. Rather than diversifying its power supply to integrate cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power, or by introducing energy efficiency measures, the Brazilian government currently plans to maintain its dependence on a dirty greenhouse gas-emitting infrastructure. Brazil plans to meet future energy needs with a reckless dam-building boom in the Amazon, which will endanger the region's last ecosystems and wild rivers upon which forest communities depend.
In brazen violation of international human rights conventions as well as national law, Brazil is currently constructing Belo Monte, mega-dam on the Xingu River. Additionally, the government plans to build a second massive dam complex on the neighboring Tapajós River and its tributaries. These projects follow in the footsteps of the disastrous Madeira River Complex, portending an ominous future for the Amazon and its peoples. The construction of both mega-dams will have irreversible impacts on indigenous communities, biodiversity, and global climate.
What We Do: Our Work in Brazil
Amazon Watch supports local Brazilian communities in their ongoing fight for basic human rights as well as their efforts to preserve the Amazonian rivers and rainforests.
Amazon Watch's support for the rights of the region's indigenous communities focuses primarily on threats to rivers and rainforests as posed by the construction of destructive dams, deforestation, mining, land invasions, and water pollution, among other invasive practices. The physical and cultural survival of the Amazon's diverse indigenous people hinges on the health of their lands, rivers, and forests.
For an update about some of our most recent campaign work from 2014, check out this video.
Indigenous Communities We Support
Brazil's dam-driven development model for the Amazon takes place against a backdrop of serious indigenous rights violations. Projects like Belo Monte are troubling examples of a movement driven by Brazil's most powerful political and economic interests which erase the constitutional land rights of the country's diverse indigenous peoples as well as open, unrestrained access to precious territories.
Coordinator of Brazil's National Indigenous Association (APIB), Sônia Guajarara states:
"We are living in a moment of great global transformation, where capitalism dominates and all those who do not incorporate themselves into this system are seen as an inconvenience. Today, we indigenous peoples are seen as an embarrassment to this system because of our age-old and harmonious relationship with nature, where land is a sacred good and not merchandise, where rivers represent life, and the forest is our protector. In the name of economic development all of this is threatened, if not already destroyed. Our role as conscious citizens is to fight against this looming chaos, maintaining our way of life, enjoying [our lands] responsibly, and significantly contributing to the well-being of the planet."
Alongside other key leaders in Brazil's indigenous movement such as Kayapó Chiefs Raoni and Megaron, Sônia has called for international solidarity during this time of mounting threats.
How We Support Indigenous Partners
Amazon Watch partners with indigenous communities and leaders and in doing so, facilitates their efforts to defend basic rights.
Human rights advocacy is a priority. One way this is achieved is through increasing national and international awareness about unparalleled assaults on indigenous rights waged by both the Brazilian government and the private sector. A consistent focus on strategic communication featuring the perspective of indigenous peoples is key to generating increased public awareness about these issues. Together, indigenous partners work with Amazon Watch to create a groundswell of international outrage against the treatment of the country's native population.
Beyond raising public awareness, Amazon Watch supports Brazil's indigenous movement both politically and financially, aiding communities in their efforts to resist a myriad of threats. Officially, indigenous people's rights are preserved in the Brazilian Constitution as well as via international conventions. Despite this, many communities face escalating attacks without public notice or oversight. Amazon Watch works to shine a spotlight on such violations attempting to force the Brazilian government to answer for its role behind these injustices. Amazon Watch confronts key decision makers by bringing grassroots struggles to the halls of power.
Parallel to these efforts, the Amazon Watch team works to promote solutions for an alternative development paradigm in the region, calling for truly clean energy solutions.