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Tribes look to kill off Amazon dam

on 11/01/2019

Indigenous tribes, backed by environmentalists, on Tuesday delivered a petition demanding Brazil’s government scrap a controversial US$11bn dam project in the Amazon jungle.

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“This big construction will bring bad things on our villages and our forests,” one indigenous leader, Raoni, told AFP as he delivered the document to officials in Brasilia alongside 200 other representatives.

Raoni, wearing a traditional feathered headdress, black and red paint on his face, and a big seed to make his lower lip protrude, was the most visible opponent to the project, having several times shared the stage with the British pop singer Sting.

The Belo Monte dam is portrayed by Brazil’s government as a key piece of its plan to boost national energy production needed for one of the world’s fastest-growing emerging economies.

It recently gave the go-ahead for work to begin on the facility, which would be the third biggest dam in the world, after China’s Three Gorges construction and the Itaipu dam on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

But tribes, local residents, environmentalists and a few foreign celebrities – including Sting and “Avatar” director James Cameron – are calling for the Belo Monte project to be canceled, saying it would do harm to the world’s biggest virgin forest region.

They are pressuring Brazil’s new President Dilma Rousseff, who took power last month, to reverse the plans set in motion by her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“Dilma, respect the people of the Amazon,” the demonstrators yelled during the petition handover.

“The government is not listening to the population and had dictatorially imposed a project that will force out 40,000 people living in the area,” said one of them, Bishop Tomas Balduino of the Pastoral Land Commission.

The Brazilian government has vowed to minimize the environmental and social impact of the dam and asserted that no traditional indigenous land was to be affected.


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