by Rodrigo Bravo, Staff Writer
The huge Belo Monte dam project along the Xingu River in Brazil’s Amazon has been fiercely resisted by indigenous populations and those who understand the significance of further industrializing the Amazon. In the fight against this massive project (the dam would be the world’s 3rd larges), it has seemed that the voices of indigenous people have been ignored by the corporate interests driving the project, and by the government that should be charged with protecting the rights of the people and the land.
Finally, though, it seems that there is at last a sign of hope for the eco-system and people displaced by this project. On Tuesday, a federal court in Brazil ordered that work on the dam be temporarily suspended in light of the fact that indigenous peoples were apparently not given their say at a congressional hearing on the matter.
The Brazilian court noted that when Congress approved the project in 2005, it called for an environmental impact study after the start of the work.
Under the law, the native communities were given the right to air their views in Congress on the basis of that environmental impact study, but this was not done, the court said.
Of course, this decision is expected to be appealed buy Norte Energia, the consortium vying for the project, yet the fact that the uproar against this project has finally been acknowledged by the court system is a historic win for indigenous and earth loving people.
“It’s a historic decision for the country and for the native communities,” said Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Vivo indigenous movement.
“It’s a great victory which shows that Belo Monte is not a done deal. We are very happy and satisfied.”
Construction on the dam has been ramping up and tens of thousands of employees are scheduled to be working on the dam day and night by 2013. If Norte Energia ignores this order to halt construction it will be held liable for fines up to $250,000 a day.
Indigenous people and activists argue that the since the dam will have such an irreversible impact on the eco-system, displace up to 40,000 native people, and heavily exacerbate deforestation, it should not be constructed.
Belo Monte is expected to flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu and displace 16,000 people, according to the government, although some NGOs put the number at 40,000 displaced.
The federal government of Brazil has already pledged $1.2 billion to assist the displaced by 2019.
With the rampant destruction of the Amazon throughout South America, the most biologically diverse area of the planet, a true miracle is needed at this point to fight back the forces of consumption.
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