Article from Amazon Watch: Manaus, Brazil – James Cameron held a press conference yesterday with Amazonian indigenous leaders and environmental experts following his return with Arnold Schwarzenegger from a visit to the Big Bend region of the Xingu River, the site of the proposed Belo Monte Dam in the Brazilian Amazon. Calling the Dam a "human rights crisis" for Brazil, Cameron – who has visited the Xingu Region three times in the past year – made an appeal to the Brazilian government and public to use this crisis as an opportunity to lead Brazil into a more ecologically sound energy path.
Cameron also participated in the Global Sustainability Forum where he shared the stage with Schwarzenegger in a dynamic discussion touching on the challenges that countries face when moving from an old model of energy, exemplified by large dams, to a new model based on energy efficiency, solar and wind power. Cameron pointed to the experience of California under Schwarzenegger's leadership in stimulating growth in green jobs, solar and wind power.
Cameron was joined by legendary Kayapo Chief Raoni Txucarramãe, indigenous leader Sheyla Juruna of the Xingu Alive Forever movement, and Philip Fearnside and Francisco Hernandez, leading specialists on climate change and sustainable energy in Brazil.
"The Brazilian government is not open to dialogue with its own people," said Sheyla Juruna, a leader of the Juruna people who are directly affected by the Belo Monte Dam. "It consistently violates its own laws and constitution, especially with regard to the requirement to consult indigenous people about the impacts of Belo Monte and other mega-projects."
Kayapo Chief Raoni Txucarramãe said his people are holding assemblies and preparing for a campaign of resistance to stop the dam. "President Dilma and Lula before her have shown a lack of compassion for the enormous suffering that the flooding and displacement the project will bring to my people and the other peoples of the Xingu.
"The government has been ignoring the findings of the courts against the illegality of the building of the dams, so we are going over the heads of government and the courts to organize broad alliances of both indigenous and non-indigenous people, NGOs and government to appeal directly to public opinion and support," continued Txucarramãe.
Cameron said, "Listening to people on the ground in the forest who will be directly affected, and to the experts, it's clear that Belo Monte is an ill-conceived project not only in terms of economic efficiency, but especially because of the lack of transparency, participation and inclusion of indigenous peoples and local communities.
"The most important thing is to raise awareness in Brazil that Belo Monte is not a good solution for meeting the country's energy needs – given its poor economic and the moral and ethical issues, to say nothing of its enormous toll on indigenous peoples and other inhabitants of the Xingu. The Brazilian taxpayers could save billions by cancelling the dam and investing in truly renewable energy.
"Meeting the challenges of a green energy future requires that we all learn from each other – US from Brazil and Brazil from examples like California. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke here about how breaking a new path towards a green energy future has created more jobs in California than traditional industry and service sectors. Brazil has the potential to be a world leader in promoting sustainable energy at a global scale," concluded Cameron.
"We need to dispel the myth that big dams represent clean and renewable energy, considering their enormous social and environmental consequences," said Francisco Hernandez, an energy policy expert from the University of São Paulo. "Brazil is not pursuing a clean and diversified energy matrix but rather developing a single gigantic source, in spite of all of the recognized problems these projects bring."
Philip Fearnside, scientist with the National Institute of Amazon Research (INPA), pointed to the significant climate footprint of large dams given their methane emissions, a global warming gas 25-35 times more potent than CO2. "While economic development is the stated goal of the dam, the great part of its electricity goes to metal smelting, for example producing aluminum ingots, a raw material which is mostly exported and creating only 2.7 jobs per gigawatt hour of electricity," said Fearnside.
The risky $17 billion Belo Monte Dam would be the world's third largest dam. It would divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch. Its reservoirs will flood more than 120,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace between 20,000 and 40,000 people and generate vast quantities of methane. A partial installation license was issued for the dam project in late January despite the dam building consortium's failure to meet dozens of environmental and social pre-conditions.
NEWS UPDATE: Land clearing begins for destructive Amazon dam 10 March. News & media E-mail newsletter Media centre Press releases by e-mail News archive News by tribe News by country Media kits Publications Amazon Indians are calling for the Belo Monte dam to be halted © M. Cowan/ Survival Construction workers have begun to bulldoze land in the Brazilian Amazon to make way for the controversial Belo Monte mega-dam. Earlier this week, Norte Energia, the company building the dam, sent its workers to the dam site to start building infrastructure for the project. This follows the government environmental agency’s issuing of a partial installation licence for the dam, in January. The licence was suspended soon after it was issued, as a judge ruled the dam did not meet environmental standards. But the suspension was then overturned by a higher court, last week. The Belo Monte dam, if built, will be the third largest in the world. It threatens to harm vast areas of forest and reduce fish stocks in the rivers, upon which thousands of tribal people living in the area depend for their survival. Hundreds of Indians of various tribes have been protesting against the dam, warning that if it is built, the Xingu River will become a ‘river of blood’, and a ‘war’ could commence. Last week, three indigenous leaders from the Amazon protested in London outside the office of Brazil’s development bank BNDES, which is providing a large proportion of the funds for the project. Sheyla Juruna of the Juruna tribe from the Xingu region, said of Belo Monte and other Amazon dams, ‘The dams will bring irreversible cultural, social and environmental damage. BNDES, by investing in the dams, is investing in the destruction of the Amazon. We are being treated like animals – all our rights are being violated’. Last month, Indians delivered a petition signed by around half a million people, to Brazil’s new President, Dilma Rousseff, urging her to put a stop to this ‘disastrous’ project. On Monday 14 March, Indians of the Xingu region will participate in a large communal fishing trip in protest against Belo Monte. Further licensing is required before the dam can be fully constructed.
The Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) is breaking Brazilian law by using public funds to finance projects that will destroy our lives and the river and forest we depend upon. Why don’t they finance projects that truly promote sustainable development for my region? - Sheyla Yakarepi Juruna
Where: Oslo (Feb 19-20), Geneva (Feb 23-24), Paris (Feb 25) & London (Feb 28-Mar 2)
When: February 20 – March 2, 2011 ending with a protest at BNDES London Office
Who: Amazonian indigenous leaders representing communities affected by large dams in the Amazon, including:
What: A two-week delegation of Amazon indigenous leaders and their allies to Europe will highlight socially and environmentally destructive mega-dams planned for the Amazon basin while highlighting greener alternatives for meeting Brazil’s energy needs. The delegation will engage European governments and dam builders and put pressure on one of the main financier of these projects – the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) – to refrain or withdraw their support. The delegation will help to advance the preservation of the Xingu, Madeira, and Ene River basins and demand respect for the rights of local populations whose livelihoods depend on these riverine ecosystems.
Background: Recent years have witnessed a growing expansion in the influence of the Brazilian government, the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES), and the Brazilian state electric utility Eletrobras in the planning, financing, and construction of mega-dams throughout the Amazon. The Brazilian government is planning to build more than 60 mega-dams in the Brazilian Amazon including in the Xingu, Madeira, and Tapajós river basins, and has signed an agreement to finance six dam projects in the Peruvian Amazon, including the Paquitzapango dam in the Ene river basin. While multi-lateral development banks in the region such as the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Inter-American Development Bank have reduced their direct foreign investment in large scale dams in the Amazon, BNDES has emerged as the leading financier of such projects. BNDES is now a key lender in Latin America with over $70 billion in loans in 2010, more that the World Bank and IDB combined. Currently the BNDES has committed to financing 80 percent of the controversial Belo Monte Dam Complex in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as being a key financier of the Madeira dam complex.
While BNDES holds the Amazon Fund to finance projects to reduce emissions and deforestation, it simultaneously, funds large-scale infrastructure and extractive industry projects that increase emissions and deforestation, and also violate the right to water and indigenous peoples’ rights.
The delegation will be meeting with representatives of the Norwegian government (which provided initial funds to help launch the Amazon Fund), High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, investors and government officials. BNDES has declined to meet in London and referred the delegation to meet with the bank in Rio, Brazil. The delegation will be holding public events and press conferences, terminating at two major press events in London on March 1st and 2nd.
Interviews and more information available upon request.
For more information on BNDES and the financing of large-dams in the Amazon, please visit:
On behalf of the Juruna Indigenous people of the Xingu River Basin, I ask for your support to help stop the Belo Monte Dam. At any moment, the Brazilian government could break ground, causing irreparable impacts for our communities, the environment and the global climate. We are at a critical time in the campaign to stop the Belo Monte Dam and it is essential that the international community take action now to defend the Amazon and support indigenous peoples' rights.
– Sheyla Juruna, Juruna Tribal Leader