Hundreds of people from the Xingu and Tapajós river basins began an indefinite protest of the main construction site of the controversial Belo Monte Dam on Thursday, May 2. Check out the pictures for a glimpse of what's happening on the ground.
Last night I attended my sixth Goldman Environmental Prize Ceremony, and I was once again refreshed and inspired. Inspired by the individual stories of sacrifice and determination. Inspired by the conviction that against the odds, change can happen.
After nearly 10 years of campaigning, La Parota Dam was officially cancelled. This is an amazing victory for the communities in Mexico – especially the Council of Communal Land Owners and Communities Against Construction of La Parota Dam (CECOP) – who have been fighting the project from the beginning, and the larger movement in Latin America fighting to protect their rivers and human rights.
This is a guest blog by our former Executive Director Patrick McCully. Back in May I was lucky enough to go down to Santiago to give a presentation comparing progress in renewable energy implementation between Chile and California. I took advantage of being in Santiago to head further south for a weekend in the remote Patagonian province of Aysén.
Early this morning, hundreds of people began an occupation of the Belo Monte Dam site near Altamira, Brazil, in the heart of the Amazon. Our Amazon Program Director Brent Millikan is there. Watch a video and see photos of this historic event.
Well, now we know why HidroAysen has repeatedly pushed back the date for turning in the EIA for its transmission line. Yesterday, Colbun – 49% owner of HidroAysen – publicly announced that it "wants to indefinitely suspend plans to seek environmental permission to build transmission lines to the capital" because there's a lack of political agreement in the country around energy development.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Chile make a disappointing – yet not unexpected - ruling. A company called HidroAysén hopes to build 5 large dams in Patagonia on the Baker and Pascua rivers, and a nearly 2,000-km-long transmission line to carry the hydroelectricity to the central grid (SIC) near the capital of Santiago. But Chile is an interesting country.
As I get ready to head up to Nevada City, CA for screenings of Patagonia Rising at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival today, I can't help but reflect on the current state of the campaign to protect Patagonia from the HidroAysén dams and transmission lines.The Supreme Court of Chile heard the case against HidroAysén on Friday December 23, 2011. A verdict is expected sometime this month, although the court could be sneaky and issue their ruling in February, when everyone in Chile is on vacation (think August in Europe and the US), and the likelihood of mass protests would be at its lowest. Once the court rules, the Council of Ministers will issue their opinion on the matter. Since this is a part of the new legislation from 2010, no one is quite sure what to expect from the Council of Ministers, and what kind of weight their opinion will have in the matter.HidroAysén has pushed back the date for turning in the transmission line EIA yet again, now saying they will likely submit it in June of 2012.
One of the beautiful lakes in Patagonia along the Carretera Austral, on the way to CochraneBerklee Lowrey-Evans, March 2011The first official news of the proposed route for the HidroAysén transmission line was released yesterday by Chile's La Tercera. Over the next two weeks, the company will begin meeting with residents of Chaitén and Cochrane to discuss the route and - no doubt - HidroAysen's plans to snatch the lands and/or the rights to build the lines through these areas. The reported rumors of a change in route are true - the transmission line is indeed planned to go underwater for 160km of the full 1,912 km length of the line, from the mouth of the Río Yelcho near Chaitén to Puerto Montt. This means that the line will not cut through Parque Pumalín, which has been a contentious issue for many years.
"It's hot in here, it's hot in here, there's too much carbon in the atmosphere!" As I heard this chant led through a megaphone this past Saturday, I had to smile. For those of you who attended sporting events at a US high school or college, or, like me, were a cheerleader, this chant should bring back some memories - yet with an all-too-important twist. Fifteen years ago the threats of climate change hadn't yet entered mainstream consciousness. Today, it can't be avoided. Even people who don't believe in climate change(!) are talking about it. And hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people around the world are taking action to stop it.The International Rivers crew holding a Healthy Rivers bannerBy David Feng for 350.orgThis past weekend, my friends/colleagues and I - and thousands of other people - came together to create the Bay Area Mega Massive Mobilization. The local gathering was but one of over 2,000 events in 175 countries, collectively called Moving Planet. This international day of action was created by 350.org to call for the essential transition to sustainable energy sources, and a rethinking of how we literally move around our planet. Around the world, people rode bikes, walked and gathered together to celebrate their communities and the power they have to make collective change.
This morning saw a great success for the legal team working in Chile to stop the destructive HidroAysén project in Patagonia.The Appellate Court in Puerto Montt accepted three recursos de protección – roughly equivalent to injunctions – which means that the project is on hold for up to three months until these issues are resolved.These recursos are an important and welcome addition to the ongoing Chilean and international campaign to stop these unnecessary dams in the breathtaking corner of the world known as Patagonia.
¡Patagonia vive; la lucha sigue! (Patagonia lives; the fight goes on!)¡Los que no saltan son de HidroAysén! (Those who aren't jumping are with HidroAysén!)¡Paaaatagonia – Sin Represas! (Patagonia - Without Dams!) These were just some of the messages I spent the morning chanting at a demonstration in front of the Chilean Consulate in San Francisco. Between 9am and 1pm, about 75 people came out to support the Chilean movement for a Patagonia Sin Represas.
As you probably know by now, the EIA for HidroAysén was approved on Monday. There have been widespread protests around the country all week, especially in Santiago and Coyhaique (where the vote happened), with more events planned for this weekend.As is unfortunately all too common in Chile, there has also been police brutality against the mostly peaceful protestors, with some of my colleagues being arrested and beaten.I've been trying to write a blog all week with a roundup of the news coverage, but have been overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of it in both Chile and the rest of the world. The interest this story has generated is truly amazing, as has been the outpouring of support.
Yesterday was a día de manifestaciones (day of protests) in Chile - thousands of people took to the streets all across the country to protest against HidroAysén in anticipation of the decision due on the project by May 16.3,500 people turned out for a protest in Santiago on April 26, 2011 to show their support for a Patagonia Sin Represas.Credit @patogomez via twitpic.comI'm not ashamed to admit that I cried last night as the videos and photos began to be shared on Facebook; I was incredibly moved to see so many people stand up for what they believe in - a Patagonia Sin Represas (Patagonia Without Dams). And I cannot give enough credit to all our partners and their allies in Chile who made this day happen. It was truly remarkable.
Today marks the close of the comment period for the public agencies to
submit their observations on the third and final addenda to the
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the HidroAysén project. This means that the Environmental
I was lucky enough to spend the first two weeks of March 2011 in Chile. It was my first time back in the country in 4 years, since I spent a semester studying in the capital of Santiago. Last time I was there I was concerned with getting to class on time, figuring out the bus system, and trying to understand all the chilean sayings, such as al tiro – right away, and bacán – cool. This time, I was still struggling to keep up with the sayings, but I was also concerned with meeting as many of the members of the Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia Chilena as possible and visiting the areas of Patagonia that would be affected by the proposed HidroAysén project.The Osorno volcano and a river near Puerto Varas, Chile.Berklee Lowrey-Evans, March 2011After a few days spent in meetings in Santiago, I headed south. My first stop was Puerto Varas to meet with the staff at Parque Pumalín, one of the campaign partners. Although Patagonia has no formal boundaries, some people think that Puerto Varas is the northern tip of the region. Regardless of this designation, it's a place of amazing beauty, with volcanoes and lakes everywhere.From there, I flew down to the heart of Patagonia – Coyhaique – which is also the headquarters of one of our main partners in the region, Aisén Reserva de Vida. Although nearly all of the organizations we're partnering with in Chile are small and underfunded, they've managed to do some really amazing work throughout this campaign.
Closing Ceremony of Rivers for Life 3Victor FloresIn October of 2010, hundreds of activists came together in the small town of Temacapulín for Rivers for Life 3: The Third International Meeting of Dam-Affected People and Their Allies.Temacapulín (Temaca to its inhabitants) was the perfect place for this gathering - Temaca is threatened by a dam that would flood this centuries-old town, displace its residents and destroy its strong cultural history. But Temaca was the perfect location for another reason: the people have been fighting back from the beginning. With help from Guadalajara-based non-profits IMDEC and COA, the affected communities have been waging a valiant battle at the legal, social and community levels to stop this unnecessary project called El Zapotillo Dam.
Alexandra Teixeira, 2010 Amazon Intern, in Yosemite Guest Blog by Alexandra Teixeira.
Alexandra, a student at Brazil's PUC-Rio, is currently studying at UC Berkeley through an exchange program. She's researching the effects of international development foreign aid and interning at International Rivers for the Amazon campaign, specifically working to help stop Belo Monte Dam.
This 2010 documentary Xingu: Why We Don't Want Belo Monte – produced by the Brazilian NGO FASE with the support of our former Amazon Program Director Glenn Switkes – provides a space for the people of Xingu to voice their indignation against governmental neglect and their opposition to Belo Monte Dam. It is estimated that 14,000 indigenous people, along with many other communities, live along the Xingu River. In an effort to change the pattern of neglect and empower Xingu people, this documentary shows the perspectives of the affected communities whose livelihoods depend on the Xingu River, and denounces the complex and irreversible effects that Belo Monte Dam will cause to as many as 450,000 people. "Xingu: Why We Don't Want Belo Monte" is composed of touching personal histories of local people's relationships with the river and its meaning to their communities.
Zachary Hurwitz Guest blog by Zachary Hurwitz.Zach is a former International Rivers intern in Brazil with a Masters degree in Geography from the University of Texas, Austin. He has worked on energy issues in the Amazon Basin since 2006. In July 2009, Lula da Silva promised his personal friend and Bishop of the Xingú Dom Erwin Krautler, as well as Professor Celio Bermann of the University of São Paulo and representatives of affected indigenous and riverine communities that "we will not force Belo Monte down anyone's throat." But on February 1st, the Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA did just that, releasing the first of three environmental licenses required to build the Belo Monte mega-dam on the Xingu River.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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