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Brazilian indigenous leader to address UN council in effort to stop dam

Brazilian indigenous leader to address UN council in effort to stop dam

Members of the Munduruku indigenous tribe dance during a “Caravan of Resistance’” protest in São Luiz do Tapajós against plans to build a hydroelectric dam on 27 November 2014. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Ademir Kaba Munduruku will argue Brazil is violating indigenous rights by failing to consult them about the hydroelectric project on the river Tapajós.

The Brazilian government has violated its own constitution and international law by developing hydroelectric power plants in the Amazon, according to an indigenous leader due to address the 29th United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday afternoon.

Ademir Kaba Munduruku will argue that the Brazilian government failed to consult affected communities ahead of its construction of the Belo Monte dam, and that it is repeating this failure over its plans for another dam across the river Tapajós.

The right to free, prior and informed consultation is enshrined in Brazil’s constitution. It is also an integral part of the International Labour Organization Convention 169, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Brazil is a signatory.

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of his speech, Ademir Kaba said the Munduruku people had handed the government a protocol establishing the terms of a consultation process in January, but it had yet to receive a response.

“Only after consulting all 126 villages that run the length of the Tapajós should the government make a decision about whether to go ahead,” he said. The Munduruku are the largest indigenous group in the Tapajós basin, with around 13,000 living alongside the river.

Ademir Kaba accused the government of a disproportionate use of force – including a police raid on the village of Teles Pires in 2012 during which the indigenous leader Adenilson Kirixi Munduruku was shot dead – and he warned that if necessary, the Munduruku were prepared to use force to resist the government’s plans.

An aerial view of the construction site of a hydroelectric dam along the Teles Pires river, a tributary of the Amazon, in Pará. Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters/Corbis

“If the government does not engage in dialogue with us, if it does not use the tools of democracy, we are prepared to die to stop the building of this dam,” he said.

Originally, the auction to develop the 8,040MW São Luiz do Tapajós plant, the largest of three dams planned for the river, was scheduled for December 2014. Under pressure from campaigners, the government reversed its decision. But in April this year, Eduardo Braga, the minister of mines and energy, said it could now take place in November or December.

While in Europe, Ademir Kaba will also hold talks with representatives of European companies who are involved in the Brazilian government’s development of the Amazon basin, including EDF, GDF Suez and Alstrom.

The Munduruku leader is being accompanied by Felício Pontes, a public prosecutor from the state of Pará who has filed numerous lawsuits over the government’s violation of human rights and environmental legislation in its development of the Amazon basin.

Pontes aims to draw attention to the government’s frequent use of a legal device dating from the country’s military dictatorship, the suspensão de segurança (security suspension), which overturns any legal ruling which could potentially “harm public order, health, security or the economy”.

Throughout the construction of the Belo Monte dam, the law was repeatedly invoked to overrule legal decisions which challenged the project.

Belo Monte, set to be the world’s fourth-largest hydroelectric plant, is now 77% complete and should start to generate electricity in November. When finished it will be capable of producing 11,000MW of power, enough to fulfil the needs of 60 million people, according to Norte Energia, the consortium building the dam.

In 2013, the latest year for which figures were available, around 70% of Brazil’s electricity was generated from hydroelectric plants. The government plans to build 60 large dams in the Amazon basin over the next 20 years.

Brazil’s secretary general of the presidency, the government body responsible for the consultation process, said: “The federal government will guarantee the right to prior consultation with the Munduruku people, as set out in ILO Convention 169, for the realisation of the Tapajós hydroelectric project.”

Author : Bruce Douglas in Rio de Janeiro

© The Guardian / original article


Date : 24/06/2015