According to the ILO Convention 169, signed by all countries in the region, Indigenous Peoples have the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent before decisions that affect their territorial rights and ways of life be made. However, this is not what we see during the construction of mega projects of infrastructure and energy throughout South America, especially big dams, ports, roads, pipelines and so on. CASA supports alliances and forums that organize to defend the rights of communities in risk situation, having their basic rights disrespected.
Tapajós Alive Alliance
With CASA Fund support, the Tapajós Alive Alliance brought together in 2013 the main leaders of the communities directly affected by the hydroelectric power plants planned for the Tapajós River Basin. Tapajós is a large and important tributary of the Amazon River. At this meeting, the leaders were apprised of the situation and were able to take a position on this complex issue. Other related CASA supported projects provided follow-up on these discussions.
The state-run Eletronorte company has plans to build 12 hydroelectric power megaplants in the Tapajos River Basin that will cause huge and irreversible environmental and social damages. The greatest challenge faced by this movement is to sensitize the populations threatened by the project. Most riverbank dwellers live in isolation and have no information on the project plans, or their right to prior consultation and participation in decisions that will affect their territories, lives, and future.
The Alliance’s work is based on information sharing, using educational booklets, documentaries, and gatherings to discuss the issue. The movement believes that awareness raising and united mobilization of organized society – students, educators, farmers, riverbank dwellers, Indigenous peoples, and affected communities – will be able to block the construction of small hydroelectric power plants, large hydroelectric power plants, and railways. It also aspires to defend Amazonian integrity.
Specialists have already identified numerous impacts of dam construction, such as hampering fish from migrating upriver to spawn, and river pollution with higher water acidity rates that put the lives of some animal species at risk. Flooding of huge forest areas produces methane, the main factor in global warming, in addition to affecting millennial cultures living in the region, with their unique knowledge of how to use the Amazonian biodiversity. The discovery of new medicines depends on information derived from this knowledge.
Teles Pires Forum
The Teles Pires River Valley is located in the middle of the northern part of Mato Grosso state, where the Amazon biome predominates. Although historically occupied by Indigenous peoples, this region was colonized by southern farmers encouraged by the federal government. Its frontiers are still being consolidated, and have changed through the cycles of exploitation of its abundant natural resources, such as soil use, where forests are replaced by monocultures for export, and more recently by construction of hydroelectric power plants.
The backers of the cycle of large hydroelectric power plant construction intend to bring large investments to the region over the next four years. According to the Energy Research Corporation (EPE), the Tapajós River Basin, of which the Teles Pires River is a part, has a huge potential for electricity production with 29 hydroelectric power plants. The first four plants under construction in that basin are on the Teles Pires River – Colíder, Teles Pires, Sinop, and São Manoel – which together have a budget of 15 billion reals.
The Teles Pires Forum works with grassroots groups and organizes workshops to analyze and study the Basic Environmental Program (PBA), developed by the contractors building the dams, in order to provide information to ensure the rights of affected communities. The result of all this work involving the study of the PBA and other documents will be submitted to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office and other inspection organs.
With CASA Fund support, the Forum developed tools to organize and educate the communities affected by the Sinop and São Manoel hydroelectric power plants before their operation licenses are approved. Affected communities were mobilized and this generated experience sharing among traditional peoples affected, resulting in a collective resistance movement.
Altamira is a city deeply marked by the relation of its population with the Xingu River – a right-bank tributary of the Amazon River. First, were the Indigenous peoples; later came the nut pickers, rubber tappers, and farmers who arrived in the 1970s. Currently, the greatest cause of environmental damage to the region is the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant dam. Throughout all these historical periods, the state has always been absent, abandoning the people who lived there.
The Xingu Forever Alive Movement is a collective formed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations, as well as social movements active in political education in urban and rural communities of cities on the banks of the Middle Xingu River. This movement’s objective is to facilitate the exchange of experiences among populations living along the Tapajósa and Xingu rivers.
The CASA Fund supports were used to develop strategies and plans, to organize meetings, and to promote exchanges, debates, and seminars so the local people could say what they wanted for themselves and the Xingu in terms of development and proposed alternatives to the construction of river dams.
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