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São Manoel Plant license suspended by sentence, but will not be enforced by regime’s legal institute

São Manoel Plant license suspended by sentence, but will not be enforced by regime’s legal institute

Photo : Mário Bordignon – Cimi Archive

The Federal Court in Cuiabá sentenced a legal action over the licensing of the São Manoel hydroelectric power plant on the Teles Pires River located at the border between Pará and Mato Grosso States, suspending licenses issued by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Resources (Ibama) due to a lack of impact studies on indigenous peoples Kayabi, Apiaká and Munduruku, all of whom are affected by the works. As is the case with other processes concerning the irregularity of federal government works in the Amazon, the sentence will not come into force and the works must continue due to the legal institute’s suspension of security.

Included in the legal framework by the military dictatorship, the suspension of security enables the continuation of works and policies that the government considers crucial for reasons concerning the economy. In the case of São Manoel, also issued an injunction by the Court of Mato Grosso, the Attorney-General obtained the suspension via the presidency of the Federal Regional Court for the 1st Region, in Brasília. For Judge Ciro José Arapiraca, the analysis of all documentation in this process displays a lack of adequate study on the plant’s impact on indigenous peoples, that which would be requisite for the licensing of this enterprise.

The dam is one of seven government projects on the Teles Pires River and less than one kilometre from affected indigenous Kayabi territory. Because of the works, grave impacts were already detected on the outskirts of the affected area and with no unforeseen mitigations or compensations due to lack of study.

The Energy Research Company (EPE) responsible for the studies, pledged in Court that the problems flagged by the Federal Public Ministry in 2013 – when the action was filed – would already have been cleared. However, the judge registered in the sentence that the allegation had not been proven. “It must be clarified that the Energy Research Company did not place any new environmental impact study on file involving the assessment of the indigenous component. This goes to show how said company has still not fulfilled its obligations and consequently has damaged environmental interests and indigenous peoples in need of special protection according to the Constitution.”

The Federal Public Ministry’s action is based on opinion from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), a local authority of the same federal government responsible for the protection of indigenous rights. In agreement with FUNAI, the studies submitted by EPE on the plant were incomplete and the programmes submitted under ‘impact mitigation and compensation’ were deemed “insufficient”.

According to FUNAI, there was a lack of planning on behalf of territory protection, protection of isolated Indians, health, interactive monitoring of water quality and of wildlife and fish. There is also a lack of planning for integrated land and environment management, and for the rehabilitation of degraded areas, training, media coverage, environmental education, generation of income and the cultural valuing of material and immaterial heritage among other unmentioned factors.

For the Federal Public Ministry, the lack of study and planning is even more serious as it is a licensing procedure that, to quote FUNAI, is marked “by conflict and tension and some direct confrontation” and as long as they conduct the study of the indigenous component, it is in any case, “merely to fulfil criteria”.

Case nº – 0013839-40.2013.4.01.3600 – 1ª Federal Court, Cuiabá (MT)

© - translated by Felix Charnley  / original article

Date : 02/06/2015