Indigenous tribes occupy dam in Brazil, demand reparations

Jeremy Hance
July 27, 2010

An indigenous group in Brazil has taken over a hydroelectric dam, which they state has polluted vital fishing grounds and destroyed sacred burial ground. They are demanding reparations for the damage done and that no more dams are built in the region without their prior consent.

The occupation of the dam began on Sunday when approximately 300 Indians from eleven different tribes took over the Dardanelos Dam in the Brazilian state of Matto Grosso. Despite wearing war paint and bows and arrows, the occupation was said to be non-violent and no injuries have been reported.

Initially the indigenous protesters held some 150 workers at the dam, but have since released the employees. The tribes are currently holding talks with government officials and representatives from the dam in hopes to come to an agreement to end the standoff.

A spokesperson with the Enawene Nawe tribe, one of the tribes represented in the action, told indigenous rights organization Survival International that "[they] joined the protest to raise awareness about the damage the dams cause, about the recognition of our land and the dangers of future projects like this".

After two years with poor fish catches, the government was forced to bring in farmed fish for the tribes.

"They don't want money in their hands. What they want is a sustainable program in the area that will recover the loss they have suffered in this archaeological site," explained Antonio Carlos Ferreira Aquino from the National Foundation for Indigenous Affairs in an interview with CNN.

Brazil has become increasingly dependent on hydroelectric power to boost energy production, however dams in Brazil have been implicated in flooding pristine rainforest, disrupting natural river ecosystems, hurting already marginalized indigenous people, and releasing vast amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane arguably equal to carbon emissions released by fossil fuel powered plants.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 27, 2010).

Indigenous tribes occupy dam in Brazil, demand reparations .