Update: Brazilian Supreme Court Overturns Suspension Of Belo Monte Dam
August 30, 2012
Apparently we spoke too soon.
The Brazilian Supreme Court has overturned the suspension of the Belo Monte Dam, caving to pressure from President Dilma Rousseff’s administration without giving appropriate consideration to indigenous rights implications of the case, human rights groups said today. The case illustrates the Brazilian judiciary’s alarming lack of independence, when powerful interests are at stake.
On August 27th the Chief Justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court Carlos Ayres Britto unilaterally overturned an August 14th ruling by a regional federal court (TRF-1) to suspend construction of the controversial Belo Monte Dam.
The lower court had called for an immediate halt to construction after years of high-profile criticism. The likes of Hollywood director James Cameron and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights have said Belo Monte would displace indigenous people in the Amazon rain forest.
August 16, 2012
A federal judge in Brazil has suspended construction work on the world’s biggest hydroelectric project in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
In a statement released on Tuesday, federal appeals court Judge Souza Prudente said that work could only resume on the $11bn, 11,000MW Belo Monte Dam, located on the Xingu river that feeds the Amazon, after the indigenous communities living in the area were consulted.
Thank you, Care2 activists! Over 27,000 of you signed our petitions demanding a halt to the construction of this dam. Along with thousands more activists both in Brazil and around the world, we succeeded in placing a halt on this construction.This has truly been an international grassroots movement.
Yes, President Rousseff, you need to consult with your citizens before flooding thousands of their homes, thereby devastating the environment and their livelihoods.
From The Guardian:
“The court’s decision highlights the urgent need for the Brazilian government and Congress to respect the federal constitution and international agreements on prior consultations with indigenous peoples regarding projects that put their livelihoods and territories at risk. Human rights and environmental protection cannot be subordinated to narrow business interests” said the author of the ruling, federal judge Souza Prudente.
Belo Monte would flood an area of 500 square kilometers along the Xingu River and force the relocation of 16,000 people. That’s according to the government, but many believe the number displaced could be as high as 40,000. Indigenous groups fear the dam will harm their way of life while environmentalists have warned of deforestation, greenhouse-gas emissions and irreparable damage to the ecosystem.
In response, the government has declared that the dam will be a source of clean, sustainable energy, and that it will help fuel the country’s economy.
Tuesday’s decision is a momentous victory for those of us who believe in basic human rights, but the battle is far from over. The Norte Energia consortium, which is building the dam, will have an opportunity to appeal, which they have done successfully in the past. Environmental and human rights groups are calling on the government to accept the judgement.
Work on the dam began a year ago, despite fierce opposition from local people and environmental activists, and about 12,000 construction workers are due to work on the dam this year. Eventually, it is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of electricity – the third biggest hydro-electric generating capacity in the world after China’s Three Gorges and Brazil’s Itaipu dams.
Norte Energia told AFP it was awaiting formal notification of the court ruling before responding. The court said the consortium was liable for a daily fine of $250,000 should it flout the order.
This battle is not over yet. We need to stay vigilant. Stay tuned for updates on this important decision.
Photo Credit: International Rivers