International Labor Organization Raps Brazil over Monster Dam

The UN's International Labor Organization (ILO) has released a report stating that the Brazilian government violated the rights of indigenous people by moving forward on the massive Belo Monte dam without consulting indigenous communities. The report follows a request last year by the The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the Brazilian government to suspend the dam, which is currently being constructed on the Xingu River in the Amazon.

According to the ILO, Brazil violated Convention 169—which ensures free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous people—by not having hearings with indigenous groups before approving the project.

"This is yet another major blow to the international legal and reputational standing of the Brazilian government as it recklessly pursues the construction of the Belo Monte Dam to the detriment of indigenous and traditional peoples of the Xingu," said Christian Poirier, Brazil Program Director with Amazon Watch, an organization that is campaigning against the dam. "While the Rousseff government seems impervious to all reason surrounding this project, the world continues to call her to task."

The ILO report found that the impacts of the $11-17 billion Belo Monte would "go beyond the flooding of land or displacement of these people" by changing the flow of the Xingu River on which communities have long-depended.

Besides diverting 80 percent of the Xingu River's flow, the Belo Monte dam is also expected to displace 16,000 people, according to the Brazilian government; although environmentalists estimate that 40,000 could be forced to move. Amazon Watch says the dam will flood more than 40,000 hectares of rainforest.

The Brazilian government argues that the dam, which was originally proposed in the 1970s under a military dictatorship, is necessary to cover increasing energy demands in the country. The dam would provide energy to 23 million homes, yet during three to four months of the year the dam will only run 10-30 percent capacity due to low waters.

The ILO said the Brazil government must carry out consultation with indigenous communities before damage to the ecosystem is irreversible.

Belo Monte may well be the most controversial hydroelectric project worldwide. Recently, 600,000 people signed a petition against the project.

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