A federal court in Brazil has suspended the use of military and police personnel during technical research on the controversial São Luíz do Tapajós Dam in the Brazilian Amazon. The military and police were brought in to stamp down protests from indigenous people living along the Tapajós River, but the judge decreed that impacted indigenous groups must give free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) before any furter studies can be done on the proposed dam. However, the decision is expected to be appealed.
Earlier in the month, the Munduruku indigenous group in the area warned it would “go to war” with the government if they forced the dam on them, as reported by the Guardian. The military and police were sent to the area, after the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, okayed the deployment of such forces during technical and environmental studies. However, the judge in the case, João Batista Moreira, found that the lack of consent from indigenous groups violated federal law and international treaties.
“This is a landmark decision for establishing that prior consultations with indigenous communities and other traditional populations, as well as the analysis of cumulative impacts of dam cascades, must be taken seriously by the Brazilian government from the earliest phases of planning at the river basin level,” Brent Millikan, Amazon Program Director of International Rivers, said in a statement.
However, the Brazilian court system often sees such decisions rapidly overturned, such as during the lead up to the construction of the Belo Monte Dam (which is currently being built) when the project was halted and re-started several times by courts.
Currently the Brazilian government is planning three major dams on the Tapajós River, and four on its tributary, the Jamanxim River. These dams are apart of a major expansion of hydroelectric projects across the Amazon region, which critics say will undercut biodiversity, ruin rivers, produce significant greenhouse gases, and decimate the lives of indigenous peoples.
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