Stunning development in Brazilian dam issue

The Belo Monte dam in Brazil, which will allegedly be the third largest dam in the world, will displace dozens of Brazilian Indigenous groups. The dam is very controversial.

On Monday, a Brazilian judge put a hold on the dam because the government of Brazil had not previously consulted with Indigenous peoples.

Brazilian federal judge Selene Maria de Almeida voted that the Belo Monte Dam licenses are illegal and must be cancelled due to widely-accepted evidence that the Brazilian government did not hold proper consultations with Indigenous tribes that would be affected by the project. De Almeida argued that while the dam reservoirs do not flood indigenous territories, the project's diversion of the Xingu River will directly impact the tribes' abilities to reproduce physically, culturally, and economically, as 80% of the Xingu River would be channeled away from their lands

Her vote opened the trial of the second of 12 lawsuits filed by the Public Prosecutors of the state of Pará that allege illegality in the planning of Belo Monte. The Public Prosecutors claim that the Arara, Juruna, and Xikrin Kayapó tribes were not appropriately consulted before the project's environmental and installation licenses were issued by environmental agency IBAMA. 

Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution requires consultations with Indigenous peoples to be held before Congress approves various actions. Congress, she argued, can only give its approval based on the information obtained through prior consultations, anthropological studies, and environmental assessments on the project's impacts.

Government lawyers claimed that consultations with Indigenous peoples do not have to occur prior to congressional approval, but could be held during the process of environmental licensing. Yet in de Almeida's interpretation, the Brazilian Congress alone has a special responsibility to measure the benefits of a development project against its possible genocidal effects on indigenous people, and the Congress cannot devolve this responsibility to institutions of the executive branch such as IBAMA and FUNAI.

The judge also stated that compliance on this issue must take into account Brazil's adherence to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples <http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html> (UNDRIP) and ILO Convention 169 <http://www.ilo.org/indigenous/Conventions/no169/lang–en/index.htm> , which the government officially ratified on 2007 and 2002 respectively. The judge stated: "Prior consultation is not simply about holding meetings; nor is it an end in itself; it is an instrument of dialogue. Before all else, the place for discussion, reflection, and evaluation of a legislative or administrative measure proposed by the government should be within the very community, which should be previously informed of all aspects of the project and its effects on their lives."     

Check out more, and the reports and images from International Rivers.

http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/blog/zachary-hurwitz/2011-10-18/landmark-vote-upholds-indigenous-rights-belo-monte

http://www.internationalrivers.org/files/images/305408_10150347796899803_544809802_7942229_1930169649_n.jpg  

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