|Natasha Pitts – Adital journalist
For more than 20 years, indigenous peoples and traditional communities of the Xingu region, together with activists have struggled against the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on the Xingu river, in the state of Pará, Brazil. Recent years were marked by disclosures, meetings to discuss the impacts of the hydroelectric, attempts to negotiate, public actions, protests and by the promise of President Lula to the Bishop of Altamira, Dom Erwin Kräutler, that the Belo Monte would not be “shoved down the throat of the peoples of the Xingu”.
For Dion Monteiro, representative of the Metropolitan Committee of the Movement Xingu Vivo Para Sempre (Xingu Alive Forever), this moment could be considered as the most powerful attack on the peoples of the Xingu.
“The peoples of the Xingu have already resisted a military government, they resisted the governments of Sarney, Collor, Itamar, FH Cardoso and now under the Lula government, their heaviest attack. We did not expect that the issuing of the license for construction of the Belo Monte would occur in the Lula government because of his history of fighting together with the social movements. In reality, at the moment, the alliance between government and the [construction] companies is the strongest its ever been”, he stated.
Dion further confirmed that Monday, the Minister of the Environment, Carlos Minc, issued the license for the construction of Belo Monte. The fact will be officially announced to the press later today at 4:30, during a press conference in the ministry offices (5th floor – Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco B – Brasília-DF). With Minc to announce the decision, will be president of the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (IBAMA), Roberto Messias.
Even prior to being constructed, the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant has already caused damage. “Due to the proximity of construction, the city of Altamira is already receiving migrants. This results in pressure on the health system, an increase in the quantity of precarious housing, increase in deforestation for the construction of the housing and unfortunately an increase in the indices of violence. According to the Environmental Impact Studies on the project, circa 100 thousand people are due to migrate in search of work, despite there being only 700 positions anticipated for skilled personnel”, clarifies Dion.
Afterward, in a post-construction case, circa 20 thousand people from the municipalities of Altamira, Vitoria do Xingu and Brasil Novo will need to be removed from their lands and compulsorily relocated. There will be innumerable forms of damage to fishing and river transport, in addition to other environmental damages. The emission of methane, a green house gas, also represents a major problem, as well as the increase in diseases like malaria and yellow fever.
In light of all of these impacts and damages the indigenous peoples restated, in December of 2009, their position as to construction of the hydroelectric.
“We, Indigenous Peoples, will no longer sit with any representative of the government to talk about the UHE Belo Monte; because we have already spoken too much and this has cost 20 years of our history. If the Brazilian government wants to construct Belo Monte in an arbitrary manner as is being proposed, which is the total responsibility of this government and its representatives as well as the court what is going to happen with the executors of this work; with the workers; with the indigenous peoples. The Xingu river is going to be a river of blood. This is our message. That Brazil and the world have awareness of what could happen in the future if the Brazilian governments do not respect our rights as indigenous peoples of Brazil”.
Further information in English: International Rivers