xingu brazil visit

Rights of Nature Tribunal Judges visit to Brazil: Rights violations by Belo Monte dam in Xingu River

On a visit to the Volta Grande do Xingu, judges from the International Rights of Nature Tribunal heard serious complaints of rights violations. A community removed from its lands by the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world considers itself “enslaved” by the project, and claims that several species of fish have disappeared.

Only 13 riverside families affected by Belo Monte were resettled on the banks of the Xingu River after the construction of the hydroelectric dam, which opened in 2016. The information was gathered by the judges of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal during a visit to the community of Paratizinho, in Volta Grande do Xingu, in the region of Altamira (PA).

In the difficult negotiations between the affected population and Norte Energia, the concessionaire responsible for the project, only 121 families who lived off fishing on the banks of the Xingu River, and were affected by the construction of the third largest hydroelectric dam on the planet, opted to be resettled on the riverbank.

The company’s promise was that the families would be relocated to similar living conditions on the riverbank. But this was not the reality found by the judges on their visit to the impacted community.

“There is no fruit on the new riverbank. So the fish are gone,” the riverine people explained to the members of the Tribunal. According to them, most fish species disappeared after the construction work. To survive, many fishermen began to work on farms in the region on a daily basis. “We are grazing for farmers, to earn a pittance,” they reported.

Besides working on the farms, the fishermen started producing commodities such as cocoa, in addition to attempts to join Norte Energia’s income generation projects, such as the production of poultry meat, which have so far failed. “We are slaves of Belo Monte”, one of the leaders denounced to the tribunal judges. That’s how they feel about being prevented from working. “The level of the river is controlled by Norte Energia. There is no summer or winter anymore”.

The riverside dwellers were resettled in an area that was previously a deforested farm. In addition to the challenge of reforestation and regeneration of the land, the site was converted into an APP, making it difficult or impossible to manage traditional life.

The obstacles generated by the APP, making it impossible even to build a masonry school, have led this community to depression and situations of financial vulnerability in the cities.

“We can’t build our masonry school, because they say cement will pollute the environment,” they reported to the judges. “It’s not a whole city of masonry that we want to build, it’s just a school,” they vented. For seven years, the children of the community have been studying in a provisional school, made of wooden planks.

“The authorities in Brazil are acting irresponsibly,” denounced the judge and indigenous leader Blanca Chancosa, of the Quechua people in Ecuador. “It hurts a lot that the Xingu is agonizing, almost dead,” she says. “For us, the river is like the blood that circulates through our body. The moment the blood cannot circulate through the body, we have problems and diseases. And this is what is happening with the Xingu: if they don’t let the river circulate properly, it gets sick,” she said, defending the reparation of life and the river.

After Altamira, the judges will visit Anapu and Marabá, where they will conduct other rounds of community listening and on-site verification of violations, between July 21 and 27. They will then give their ethical verdict during the Pan-Amazon Social Forum (FOSPA) in Belém on July 29.

Download the press release (English, Portuguese, Spanish)

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