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Belo Monte dam license ‘illegal’ rules Brazilian federal judge

The environmental license for the controversial Belo Monte dam violates the constitutional rights of indigenous communities and is therefore illegal, ruled a federal judge in Brazil on Monday.

Judge Selene Maria de Almeida concluded that the 2005 decree that authorized the dam is illegal because Congress failed to carry out a consultation process with communities that will be affected by the dam. The consultation process is a right guaranteed to indigenous communities under Brazil’s constitution.

A statement from International Rivers and Amazon Watch, groups campaigning against the dam, explains Almeida’s ruling:

Almeida’s decision comes less than three weeks after another judge ordered a halt to construction activities due to concerns over the impact on local fisheries.

Amazon Watch says that despite the recent rulings, the case is far from over. It will likely end up in Brazil’s Supreme Court.

Belo Monte has proven extremely controversial. The $11-17 billion project, which would block most of the flow of the Xingu River and inundate thousands of hectares of rainforest, has been fiercely opposed by indigenous groups and environmentalists. Critics say the dam will operate well below capacity for much of the year when river levels are low. It will also disrupt fish migration patterns, affecting local livelihoods.

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