Declaration of Curitiba: Affirming the Right to Life and Livelihood of People Affected by Dams

Date: 
Friday, March 14, 1997

Approved at the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, Curitiba, Brazil
March 14, 1997

We, the people from 20 countries gathered in Curitiba, Brazil, representing organizations of dam-affected people and of opponents of destructive dams, have shared our experiences of the losses we have suffered and the threats we face because of dams. Although our experiences reflect our diverse cultural, social, political and environmental realities, our struggles are one.

Our struggles are one because everywhere dams force people from their homes, submerge fertile farmlands, forests and sacred places, destroy fisheries and supplies of clean water, and cause the social and cultural disintegration and economic impoverishment of our communities.

Our struggles are one because everywhere there is a wide gulf between the economic and social benefits promised by dam builders and the reality of what has happened after dam construction. Dams have almost always cost more than was projected, even before including environmental and social costs. Dams have produced less electricity and irrigated less land than was promised. They have made floods even more destructive. Dams have benefited large landholders, agribusiness corporations and speculators. They have dispossessed small farmers; rural workers; fishers; tribal, indigenous and traditional communities.

Our struggles are one because we are fighting against similar powerful interests, the same international lenders, the same multilateral and bilateral aid and credit agencies, the same dam construction and equipment companies, the same engineering and environmental consultants, and the same corporations involved in heavily subsidized energy-intensive industries.

Our struggles are one because everywhere the people who suffer most from dams are excluded from decision-making. Decisions are instead taken by technocrats, politicians and business elites who increase their own power and wealth through building dams.

Our common struggles convince us that it is both necessary and possible to bring an end to the era of destructive dams. It is also both necessary and possible to implement alternative ways of providing energy and managing our freshwaters which are equitable, sustainable and effective.

For this to happen, we demand genuine democracy which includes public participation and transparency in the development and implementation of energy and water policies, along with the decentralization of political power and empowerment of local communities. We must reduce inequality through measures including equitable access to land. We also insist on the inalienable rights of communities to control and manage their water, land, forests and other resources and the right of every person to a healthy environment.

We must advance to a society where human beings and nature are no longer reduced to the logic of the market where the only value is that of commodities and the only goal profits. We must advance to a society which respects diversity, and which is based on equitable and just relations between people, regions and nations.

Our shared experiences have led us to agree the following:

  • We recognize and endorse the principles of the 1992 'NGO and Social Movements Declaration of Rio de Janeiro' and the 1994 'Manibeli Declaration' on World Bank funding of large dams.
  • We will oppose the construction of any dam which has not been approved by the affected people after an informed and participative decision-making process.
  • We demand that governments, international agencies and investors implement an immediate moratorium on the building of large dams until:

    • There is a halt to all forms of violence and intimidation against people affected by dams and organizations opposing dams.
    • Reparations, including the provision of adequate land, housing and social infrastructure, be negotiated with the millions of people whose livelihoods have already suffered because of dams.
    • Actions are taken to restore environments damaged by dams - even when this requires the removal of the dams.
    • Territorial rights of indigenous, tribal, semi-tribal and traditional populations affected by dams are fully respected through providing them with territories which allow them to regain their previous cultural and economic conditions - this again may require the removal of the dams.
    • An international independent commission is established to conduct a comprehensive review of all large dams financed or otherwise supported by international aid and credit agencies, and its policy conclusions implemented. The establishment and procedures of the review must be subject to the approval and monitoring of representatives of the international movement of people affected by dams.
    • Each national and regional agency which has financed or otherwise supported the building of large dams have commissioned independent comprehensive reviews of each large dam project they have funded and implemented the policy conclusions of the reviews. The reviews must be carried out with the participation of representatives of the affected people's organizations.
    • Policies on energy and freshwater are implemented which encourage the use of sustainable and appropriate technologies and management practices, using the contributions of both modern science and traditional knowledge. These policies need also to discourage waste and overconsumption and guarantee equitable access to these basic needs.
  • The process of privatization which is being imposed on countries in many parts of the world by multilateral institutions is increasing social, economic and political exclusion and injustice. We do not accept the claims that this process is a solution to corruption, inefficiency and other problems in the power and water sectors where these are under the control of the state. Our priority is democratic and effective public control and regulation of entities which provide electricity and water in a way which guarantees the needs and desires of people.
  • Over the years, we have shown our growing power. We have occupied dam sites and offices, marched in our villages and cities, refused to leave our lands even though we have faced intimidation, violence and drowning. We have unmasked the corruption, lies and false promises of the dam industry. Nationally and internationally we have worked in solidarity with others fighting against destructive development projects, and together with those fighting for human rights, social justice, and an end to environmental destruction.

We are strong, diverse and united and our cause is just. We have stopped destructive dams and have forced dam builders to respect our rights. We have stopped dams in the past, and we will stop more in the future.

We commit ourselves to intensifying the fight against destructive dams. From the villages of India, Brazil and Lesotho to the boardrooms of Washington, Tokyo and London, we will force dam builders to accept our demands.

To reinforce our movement we will build and strengthen regional and international networks. To symbolise our growing unity, we declare that 14 March, the Brazilian Day of Struggles Against Dams, will from now on become the International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water, and Life.

Águas para a vida, não para a morte!
¡Aguas para la vida, no para la muerte!
Water for life, not for death!

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