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Indigenous leaders demand suspension of Belo Monte dam

Belo Monte protest.
Belo Monte protest. Photo credit: Mitchell Anderson.

Indigenous leaders from six Amazon tribes have asked the Brazilian government to immediately suspend the installation license for the controversial Belo Monte dam, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group that is campaigning against the project.

In a letter addressed to President Dilma Rousseff and other government authorities, sixty leaders from the Xikrin, Juruna, Arara, Parakanã, Kuruaya and Kayapó tribes demand a halt to work on the dam until the government puts into place “effective programs and measures to address the impacts of the dam on local people.”

The letter says there are strong grounds for canceling Belo Monte’s installation license, including failures to fully assess the social and environmental impacts of the dam.

The letter states that preliminary dam work has already damaged downstream water quality, affecting communities dependent on the Xingu as a source of water and livelihoods.

The Belo Monte dams is among the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region. Belo Monte will divert the flow of the Xingu river, one of the Amazon’s mightiest tributaries, displacing some 20,000 people and flooding up to 40,000 hectares of land. Scientists warn the project could disrupt important fish migration routes and trigger substantial emissions methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Belo Monte is thought to be the first of at least three major dams planned for the Xingu basin.

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