Belo Monte :
Chief Raoni's petition

BELO MONTE: French and European companies involved in shameful partnership

BELO MONTE: French and European companies involved in shameful partnership

GDF Suez, EDF, Alstom, Voith-Siemens and Andritz, Arcadis - some of them mostly state-owned - are French, German, Austrian and Dutch companies involved in the Amazon dam projects. They are asking firms, governments and companies to implement ISO standards. They have joined ISO 9001 and 14001, for instance, and they have to be urgently reminded and their national authorities informed of this fact.

ISO 9001 guarantees efficient management systems. ISO 14001:2004 specifies the environmental management system requirements enabling a body to develop and implement a policy and objectives while taking into account legal requirements and information about significant environmental aspects, to which they subscribed.

It is particularly surprising to learn that LEME, a Brazilian subsidiary of GDF-Suez, has been responsible for the much branded studies on the environmental impact of the Belo Monte dam.

The French State owns 36% of the shares in GDF-Suez. To the concern of the Brazilian public, in 2011, the French Ministry of Cooperation lent 100 million euros to Electrobras in Latin America and Africa, two major emerging areas where this energy powerhouse is trying to develop. Electrobras is in charge of the construction of the Belo Monte Dam under the cover of its subsidiary, Norte Energia. The loan will fund a technical support for the sustainable management of the Amazon forest. That move probably echoes the declaration of Carlos Minc, Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, who demands $800 million in compensation from the firms involved in the Belo Monte project, in particular for the preservation of indigenous lands.

Meanwhile, GDF-Suez detains 50.1% of the shares in the construction of the Jirau dam in Brazil. Today it is the first private electricity producer in Brazil with 21 power stations including 13 hydroelectric ones. Jirau is the second major undergoing hydroelectric programme in the Americas after Belo Monte.

At the 2010 Public Eye Awards, GDF Suez was nominated the most environmentally irresponsible company for its participation in the construction of the Jirau dam. It is accused of complacency during the planning and construction of the dam, along with an obvious disregard for human rights and environmental protection, for which the company is responsible both legally and ethically. Electrobas has obtained the ability to construct the Belo Monte dam. French firms such as ALSTOM are part and parcel of the consortium headed by GDF Suez. Alstom, via its Brazilian subsidiary, ALSTOM Hydro Energica Brasil Ltda, has signed several contracts with the Brazilian State in the transport and water sectors (sewage facilities and irrigation), heat, hydraulic and wind energy. Alstom will supply the turbines of the Belo Monte complex of dams for a lucrative contract amounting to 500 million euros.

Alstom claims in its code of ethics that any important decisions will take into account the consequences they might have on the natural environment.

Alstom also claims in its code of ethics its commitment to respect the cultures of the communities with whom it interacts and to consider the expectations of the various partners. 

Alstom also states that its reputation for integrity is founded on the respect of laws, regulations and other obligations in whichever country the company is located. Hence, Alstom associating with Brazil to build a dam violating all the principles of its code of ethics is highly questionable.

The French company, Alstom, is the major world builder of big dams. It operates in Bakun, Malaysia; Yusufeli, Turkey; Maheshwar, India; and the Three Gorges, China. The French state has held up to 21% of its capital in shares that were bought back by Bouygues in 2006. Currently, Bouygues owns 30% of Alstom's capital.

EDF, in which the State owns 85% of the shares, is said to be carrying out studies on the construction of hydroelectric dams in Brazil while keeping an eye on its nuclear projects. "If Brazil confirms its nuclear plan, EDF is ready to provide expertise", as was underlined by Patrick Simon, Managing Director of UTE Norte Fluminense, a Brazilian subsidiary of EDF which owns 90% of its capital.

What can be said about the French industry supporting the destruction of the Amazon forest and its peoples while violating its own code of ethics? Furthermore, the company in question seems to refuse to apply the principles defined by the World Commission on Dams, an organization to which they belong.

In its report published in 2000, the World Commission on Dams exposed the impact of these big dams on the indigenous populations whose lives depend on rivers. This independent international organization constituted by governments, industry, academies and civil society has provided guidelines for hydro- industry. These guidelines acknowledge the fundamental and environmental rights of the communities affected by these dams.

At the national level, the French NGO Planète Amazone issued a solemn appeal to François Hollande during Rio +20 to not contribute to industrial projects that do not respect International Law. We relied on the legitimacy of the petition against Belo Monte launched by Chief Raoni which has collected almost 430,000 signatures.

-  by Valérie Cabanes (translated from French to English by Nadia Kadry) -

By threatening the heart of the amazon forest, the BELO MONTE dam is standing in the way of our future.

Sign the Cacique Raoni's petition