Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Brazil: Dam-Affected People Deliver Half Million Signatures Calling on Brazil to Stop Belo Monte Dam

Over half a million people, most of them Brazilians, are calling on newly elected President Dilma to halt plans to construct the Belo Monte Dam. Outside the Presidential Palace this morning, several hundred people gathered in protest including indigenous chiefs in full tribal regalia and community leaders from the Xingu River Basin, and delivered the petition signatures to the Dilma Government.

"This is a life and death struggle," said Sheyla Juruna, one of the delegates who met with the Office of the President. "By pushing forward with this dam, the Dilma government is trampling on our rights. This is not just about defending the Xingu River, it's about the health of the Amazon rainforest and our planet."

Opposition to the dam project is growing among diverse sectors of civil society including scientists, politicians, dam-affected communities, environmentalists and celebrities.

"The Brazilian public is sending a loud and clear message, one that is being echoed internationally that the Dilma government needs to rethink the Belo Monte Dam and opt for more sustainable ways of meeting Brazil's energy needs," said Christian Poirier, Brazil Program Coordinator for Amazon Watch. "The project is foolish on so many levels—from its social and environmental impacts on our climate and on the people and the rainforests of the Amazon, to its technical and economic viability."

The protests were sparked by Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA's decision on January 26 to grant a "partial license" despite evidence that the dam-building consortium Norte Energia (NESA) has failed to comply with dozens of social and environmental conditions required for an installation license. The decision followed the controversial resignation of IBAMA's president Abelardo Bayma, who allegedly departed amidst intense political pressures from President Dilma to approve the license.

Critics strongly refute Dilma's assertions that dams provide "clean energy". The risky USD $17 billion Belo Monte Dam Complex will divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. Its reservoirs will flood more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace more than 40,000 people and generate vast quantities of methane—a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

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Source: Amazon Watch