International Rivers is mourning the loss of our Amazon program director Glenn Switkes, a dear friend, respected colleague, and a river warrior of unbreakable passion. Glenn died on December 21 in a São Paolo hospital of complications linked to lung cancer. He was 58.
Please see our memorial page for more information about Glenn.
Sting Meets Raoni to Protest Belo Monte Dam Beto Ricardo, Instituto SocioambeintalThe Belo Monte licensing battle continued to intensify as two top officials in the environmental protection service Ibama were canned after they refused to sign off on a license, and there are still reportedly some 16 issues to be resolved before a license could be considered.
This despite the fact that nearly daily statements in November by Brazil's Mines and Energy Minister, Edison Lobão, who confidently announced that the issuance of the license was imminent.
"The Kaiapó people, represented by Chief Raoni Metuktire, incensed at your offensive declarations in calling indigenous people "DEMONS AND BACKWARDS" in your comments regarding the construction of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam invite you to be present at our protest..."
Thus, Kaiapó leaders addressed Brazil's Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobão in announcing a major gathering to be held later this month to mobilize indigenous opposition to what would be Brazil's largest dam on the Xingu River.
Big Bad Wolf Archive
In a portentous voice, Brazil's Energy Minister, Edison Lobão, last week attacked "the demoniac forces that are pulling Brazil down" by their criticisms of Belo Monte Dam. Obviously, a project of Belo Monte's marginal viability and skyrocketing cost cannot stand up to an open debate, but the words of Lobão (which literally means Big Wolf in Portuguese) bristled the fur of social movements in the Amazon who have been trying to get objective information about the dam's impacts to the public.
Federal Police Surround Dam Opponents, Belo Monte Public HearingsMarcelo Salazar, ISAReports are coming in from journalists, activists, and public attorneys who participated in the public hearings on Belo Monte, organized by the Brazilian environmental authority Ibama during the past week. The hearings, held in Altamira and two other towns in the epicenter of the Belo Monte juggernaut, and in the state capital Belém were marked by strong protests by social movements, by legal objections by Federal Attorneys, and by a massive military and police presence.
Slaves in Egypt ArchiveDuring Brazil's military dictatorship, critics of the regime referred to its "pharaonic" projects, including huge dams built as monuments to the despots who lined the pockets of their political cronies. Now, the "pharaoh" has arisen from his tomb, and once again, it was two dam projects, part of President Lula's Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), that were using slave labor to get the pyramids erected.
President Lula Meets with Social Movements to Discuss Belo Monte Dam Ricardo Stuckert, Presidência da RepúblicaIn a potentially historic meeting, social movements and indigenous people fighting Belo Monte Dam met with President Lula last week. Those present reported that Lula promised to initiate a dialogue on the proposed project, and that the president guaranteed in his own inimitable way that that "Belo Monte will not be shoved down anyone's throat." But, how likely is Lula to slow down or halt the electric sector's juggernaut that is primed to push the project forward at any cost?
Snake Oil SalesmanarchiveBrazil's energy minister calls it the country's "crown jewel" - more than 11,000 MW of cheap energy, costing only US$ 4 billion to build (according to Lula's Growth Acceleration Program, or PAC)...or US$5 billion to build (according to the latest official studies by Eletrobrás). But, now, as companies take a harder look at the investment necessary to build Brazil's biggest hydroelectric project, Belo Monte's price tag is beginning to balloon.
Sen. José Sarney Receives Aluminum Eagle from President of AlcoaArchive José Sarney rose to power in his home state of Maranhão during Brazil's military dictatorship. He ascended to the presidency of Brazil in 1985 when Tancredo Neves, the president-elect, died on the eve of his taking office. Now, his position as president of the Senate, where he wields power second only to that of Lula, is threatened by revelations of abuse of power in secret financial transactions favoring family members and political cronies, and even leaders of his own party are calling for him to step down.
Sarney's fate is of critical importance for the Brazilian dams industry, for Sarney has made Brazil's dam building plans in the Amazon and the promotion of the aluminum industry his personal fiefdom. Sarney was reportedly instrumental in Alcoa and Billiton's decision to base their aluminum plant in São Luís, capital of Maranhão. And, Sarney helped the companies arrange publicly subsidized energy from Tucuruí Dam.
Raul Seixas at the Tapajós River Garimposarchive When I traveled to Itaituba last month for community meetings on the planned Tapajós River dams, for me the image still remained of the period of the region's "Gold Rush" of the 1980's, when Itaituba was still a small town whose economy was dependent on providing services for the 70,000 gold dredgers ("garimpeiros") along the river. I found that this no longer applies – the city has matured, and has become more tranquil and organized. Now, Eletrobrás plans to take the region back to its glory days – this time, promising that Itaituba will become a launching pad from which workers will be dispatched to build a huge dam in the Amazonia National Park. The company has even posted a ludicrous video, which argues that there are too many protected areas in the region, and asks us to believe that helicopters will beam down workers who will open clearings in the rainforest to build the dam. Let's flash back to 1985, when Raul Seixas, arguably Brazil's most original rock-and-roller, was summoned to Itaituba to play a series of shows for the gold miners...
Lula Points to his NavelArchiveAs Obama has said, "Lula's the man." So, all ears tuned in on Lula the other day in Londrina, Paraná when he spoke of his role in achieving the licensing of the Madeira River dams. What follows is a direct transcript of Lula's words of wisdom, with the help of a translator to more clearly elucidate his technical arguments:
Police Threaten MAB Protesters at Tucuruí Dam MABFour leaders of the Dam-Affected Peoples' Movement will be freed this week from a high-security prison in Belém where they have been held for 45 days, following a judge's decision yesterday. 18 MAB members were arrested on April 26 at Tucuruí Dam, following a peaceful demonstration at the dam site protesting the government's failure to follow through on its commitments to mitigation projects that had been negotiated with the movement. Tucuruí has been in operation for 25 years, during which time various initiatives to find ways to improve the situation of the fishermen, farmers, and others who lost their land and livelihoods have been discussed, but never enacted.
Aftermath of Algodões I Dam Failure archive
In the wake of the Algodões I Dam tragedy, a specialist who works for Brazil's National Water Agency has estimated that 200 other dams could be in danger of failing.
Cocal, Brazilian City Flooded after Algodões I Dam Burst TV Canal 13Algodões Dam in northeast Brazil, weakened by weeks of heavy rains, burst yesterday afternoon, leaving the city of Cocal da Estação, with 30,000 inhabitants, under 20 meters of water. At least six people have reportedly been drowned, and 500 homes destroyed.
Roberto Messias Franco, President of IbamaValter Campanato, ABr
Work on Jirau, one of two dams being built on the Madeira River in the Brazilian Amazon, ground to a halt this week after its temporary construction license expired. Environmental authority Ibama had issued a provisional license to the Enersus consortium, led by Suez, so it could "take advantage of the hydrological window" to erect its coffer dam, and get the energy on-line a year sooner. It didn't work out that way. Enersus failed to build the initial structures on schedule, and now has to face the music and have a definitive license approved by Ibama. But, things haven't gone quite according to Enersus' plan.
Rapids near site of proposed São Luiz Dam, Tapajós River Glenn Switkes, International RiversI just got back from the Tapajós River, where Eletronorte says it will construct the São Luiz Dam in essentially the same way that offshore oil platforms are built and operated. The company says it will avoid having large work camps invade the Amazonia National Park by mounting a platform at the dam site to house a rotating crew, which will return to the nearest city, Itaituba, every three days for R & R.
The Brazilian government is tightening the screws on anti-dam protestors. The Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB), unable to engage the government or dam builders in constructive dialogues on respecting the rights of local populations has often resorted to civil disobedience - blocking roads, sitting in at public agencies, and occupying dams - as a tool to get them to the table.
The brutal murder of a union leader who fought on behalf of those whose lives were ruined by Tucuruí Dam in the Brazilian Amazon has re-connected the issues of violence and disregard for the rights of dam-affected populations.
Balbina reservoir in satellite photoI was caught by surprise when I stumbled upon an official database on hydroelectric dams and reservoirs in Brazil - the System for Georeferenced Information on the Electric Sector (SIGEL), administered by the electrical energy regulatory agency, Aneel, and found an astounding fact about the Amazon's most catastrophic dam, Balbina.
Indigenous People Commemorate Supreme Court Decision on Raposa Serra do Sol Reserve José Cruz/ABrBrazil's Supreme Court recently issued a decision confirming the demarcation of 4.2 million acres for indigenous peoples in the Raposa Serra do Sol reserve in Roraima state. It's been hailed as a landmark victory for indigenous people, principally because it represented the culmination of three decades of struggle by the Macuxi and other indigenous peoples to legalize their territory. However, some legal experts now say the decision, which also imposed 19 conditions on the native peoples' rights to use and manage their lands may negatively affect indigenous rights in the future.
Araguaia River Margi Moss/Projeto Brasil das Águas
Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc called opponents of dams in Brazil "eco-demagogues", even as he proposed making the Araguaia River a no-go zone for dams. Inconsistent? Not by Minc's standards.
Four Bolivian activists, representatives of farmers and womens' organizations in the Pando border region, were arrested today by Federal Police at a noontime demonstraton in Porto Velho, Rondônia against the Madeira River dams. They are being threatened with deportation.
Bolivian Chancellor Choquehuanca meets with Brazilian Minister AmorimOn his visit to Brasília yesterday to meet with Brazilian Foreign Relations Minister Celso Amorim, Bolivian Chancellor David Choquehuanca kept a tight lip regarding his country's ongoing objections to the dams Brazil is building on the Madeira River, even as he signed accords on a mother's milk bank and other cooperation pacts.
Last week, the world press reported a new $1.3 billion loan by the World Bank, its largest ever to Brazil, supposedly for "the environment". But before the loan was approved, a group of Brazilian NGOs, including environmental groups and social movements sent a letter to the Bank urging them to reject the loan proposal. What's going on here? Doesn't Brazil need more money to protect the Amazon and to fight climate change?
Headquarters of the Federal Attorney's Office, BrasíliaArchiveThe public hearing on Brazil's 2017 Energy Plan, organized by the Federal Public Attorney's office then opened the floor to its critics. Célio Bermann, of the University of São Paulo's Energy Institute blasted the proposal. "In this plan, energy policy is restricted to a blind obsession with an ever-increasing offer of energy. It avoids analyzing what the end-use of energy will be, and who will really benefit".
Headquarters of the Federal Attorney's Office, BrasíliaArchiveYesterday, I had the opportunity of participating in a public hearing on Brazil's 10-Year Energy Plan, an initiative of the Federal Attorney's office in Brasília. Federal public interest attorneys have been active in challenging the electric sector for violations of environmental regulations and human rights, and they demanded that the 2017 Plan be subjected to public consultation.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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