Belo Monte :
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French Guyana’s Petit Saut Dam: The “Brazilian Chernobyl” built by EDF with French taxes.

French Guyana’s Petit Saut Dam: The “Brazilian Chernobyl” built by EDF with French taxes.

The ASPAG, a Canoe-Kayac-Pirogue club on Cayenne Island, organises outings aimed at raising public awareness about the impact of the Petit Saut dam.

Before building other destructive dams in the Brazilian amazon, EDF owes us more than the truth about the Petit Saut dam disaster.

EDF is entering the controversial large dam market in the Brazilian amazon. We remember at this crucial time for the future of the Amazon rainforest that EDF (an up to 84% state-owned French multinational) is behind a 20-year-old, ongoing ecocide. Thus, we refer to Petit Saut as the “Brazilian Chernobyl” and to why EDF owes us more than the truth concerning the disaster it has caused Guyana’s primary forest, as does France itself, which is set to host the International Climate Summit (COP 21) this December. French Guyana is also one of the nine countries of the Amazon region.

In Brazil’s rainforest, great dams illegally built under president Dilma Rousseff are vigorously opposed by indigenous tribes, local populations, waterfront dwellers, fishermen and traditional ribeirhino people, all of whom are greatly damaged by these structures. In the Guyanese rainforest, the denunciation of such crimes exists but is ignored by both the authorities and the media. Scandal is to be avoided by all means. Meanwhile EDF persists in entering Brazil’s profitable dam market. After the Sinop dam, currently under construction beside Kayapo territory, EDF intends to win the bid for the dam complex on the Tapajos River, the only remaining preserved tributary in the Amazon. This project has sparked indignation among ecologists worldwide and rebellion among the local Munduruku people.


In Guyana, the scenery is apocalyptic as we navigate across the Petit Saut reservoir. Skeletons of trees emerge from the contaminated water. This primary forest was deemed a ‘chemical reactor’ by French newspaper Le Monde. It was inundated by the impoundment of Petit Saut (built between 1991 and 1994 under President François Mitterand) in the Sinnamary basin, north-west of French Guyana, and by 1998, was utterly submerged. This is the largest dam reservoir in France.


The Petit Saut Dam, whose production capacity adds up to 116MW, is supposed to provide French Guyana with "clean" or "green energy". However, the impoundment of the dam remains a genuine human-caused ecological disaster. France exterminated more than 370 km2 of primary forest (more than half the surface area of primary forest destroyed in order to build Belo Monte) including surrounding wildlife and vegetation for the sake of this scandalous structure. Today the result is alarming: over half the fish species have disappeared and the lake now produces the deadliest form of mercury, namely methylmercury.


In 2008, the Petit Saut Scientific Committee noticed that "the decomposition of immersed biomass provoked a rapid deoxygenation in the water and after a few months, a large production of methane which, when oxidized in the aquatic environment, intensified the anoxia (oxygen lacking water) of the reservoir. This was nearly complete by early 1995."


This phenomenon had not been taken into account in the impact studies that originally permitted the construction of Petit Saut. Those accountable for the disaster have never been consulted.


In 1994, electricity production was halted and the anoxic water was released, as these were a threat to the survival of fish downstream.


In 2015, EDF, boasting both French technology and experience, is working on new dams in the Brazilian rainforest. We are firmly opposed to these initiatives, particularly those intended to develop along the River Tapajos. We urge our followers to change their electricity supplier as long as this 84% state-owned company continues to capitalize on the destruction of this ecosystem.


For more information about our "Stop Tapajos!" campaign, please visit:


If you wish to send us live testimonies from the Petit Saut Dam area, please use the following address: communication @ (without spaces).


Please see further references:


Image is courtesy of ASPAG official site – a Canoe-Kayac-Pirogue Club on Cayenne Island, which informs its members of the damage caused by Petit Saut.

Translated from French by Mahault Duboullay

Date : 01/03/2015

Author : Gert-Peter BRUCH