Free Tapajós!

Defending the Amazon's Last Undammed Tributary

Tensions Rise on the Tapajos River

The Tapajós River basin is among the most well-preserved environments in the Brazilian Amazon. Yet today, this vast mosaic of protected space, indigenous territories, and free flowing rivers are at imminent risk of destruction. Following in the footsteps of the Madeira Complex and Belo Monte mega-dam development, the Brazilian government aims to bring an unsustainable energy model to the Tapajós River and its principal tributaries – the Teles Pires, Jamanxim and Juruena rivers. The Brazilian government plans to build 29 large dams and approximately 80 smaller dams across these rivers.

This unprecedented series of large dams and associated industrial waterways threaten to flood national parks and indigenous lands, which will sharply accelerate the destruction of the Amazon Basin. Together, the three large dams of the "Tapajós Complex" are projected to flood nearly 800 km² of rainforest, foreshadowing even more severe ramifications than the Belo Monte dam.

As the fifth largest watershed in the Brazilian Amazon, the breathtaking beauty of the Tapajós boasts vast, pristine forests and free-flowing rivers. It is home to an incredible array of plant and animal biodiversity that includes 325 fish species, 65 of which are endemic. A bastion of cultural diversity, the basin is inhabited by ten indigenous groups as well as traditional riverine communities, fisherfolk, small farmers, and people whose way of life revolves around these waterways. The preservation of this environment is paramount to the ecological balance of the Amazon as a whole.

Indigenous peoples of the region decry the Brazilian government’s failure to properly consult them in regards to the planned dam construction on the Tapajós. The Tapajós region has thus emerged as a key battleground in the global debate on the true costs of this 21st Century development model. Indeed, the fate of the Tapajós could determine the future of the Amazon's rivers, forests, and peoples.

To confront this dire threat, Amazon Watch is working with a coalition of Brazilian and international organizations and social movements, as well as supporting the region’s indigenous people in their struggle to preserve their homeland. In particular, the Munduruku people have vowed to resist the government’s destructive aims, traveling 900 kilometers to the neighboring Xingu basin to occupy the Belo Monte dam in solidarity with those resisting Brazil’s reckless dam-driven agenda.

"The fact is that there is only one earth and that nature provides everything. It transforms the indigenous' universe and this often isn't understood by white people. But this is the indigenous reality and that is why our peoples are uniting in order to put an end to the damage caused by the Federal Government," says Munduruku Chief Saw.

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Amazon Watch works to protect the rainforest by advancing the rights of indigenous peoples. Defending indigenous rights and territories is a demonstrably effective solution to the threat of climate change. Together with our indigenous allies, we are growing the movement to leave all fossil fuels in the ground and promote a just transition to 100% renewable energy.

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