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July 30 2012

18:26

Brazil: Belo Monte Dam Threatens Forest, Wildlife, and Indigenous People


Pristine sunsets on the Xingu River in the Amazon may become a thing of the past if the Belo Monte and hundreds of other dams are allowed on the riverGuest post by Nathan Gallagher

The Belo Monte dam project is now underway on the Xingu River in the Brazilian State of Pará.  The current dam project will flood native people’s lands and other land currently housing poor Brazilians in the City Altamira who all rely heavily on the river for their livelihood. The flooded forest will decompose and release methane gas into the atmosphere and destroy the rocky breeding grounds of certain fish used for food. The dam will furthermore reduce the flow to almost zero in a 100km bend of the river destroying local fishing and devastating species of animals and plants. The forest and wetlands on this stretch of the river will also be irrevocably changed if the dam is completed, faced with almost no water much of the year.

Electro Norte Energy Company is spearheading the project, supported in part by the Brazilian government. But there is outside support for the project from all over the developed world. Companies from the United States, Germany, Austria, France and China support the project. The Brazilian government sees this dam project, and the planned 130 additional dams, as economic development. Currently 30 percent of Brazil’s energy use goes to its top 6 industries. Among those are aluminum, steel, and paper production.

The population claims that the money offered to relocate citizens from the areas affected by the project falls short. Apart from claims that the money will not be enough for current residents to live elsewhere many residents are aging and worry they will not be able to find work in the city. Many are uneducated and have learned to live from fishing the rivers or growing crops in the locations to be destroyed by the dam project. Some citizens have been targeted by dam supporters destroying their crops or their homes in order to get them to leave quietly.

The Government’s rhetoric is very closed. They insist that they have done everything necessary to ensure that indigenous people are not harmed, and have gone as far as claiming that Indigenous villages will not be affected under the current plan. The government has been consistent in the viewpoint that indigenous people have no right to their way of life and if the government Brazil wants to build a dam then it will build a dam. Time after time the government has been invited to meet with tribal leaders and has failed to show up.

Voices from across the globe calling for an end to the Belo Monte Dam

The Kayapó People are the subject of a recent documentary titled Belo Monte the announcement of a war which can be seen in full on Youtube. The Kayapó tribe is just one of 25 different ethnic groups in the Xingu basin whose lands will be flooded or cutoff from the river.  They are currently staging an occupation of the construction site and are prepared to fight if necessary to protect their home. In early July occupiers from local tribes dug a trench through the existing dam site. Many groups and supporters including James Cameron, director of Avatar (based on the real plight of tribes in the Amazon) believe that if enough support and outcry from outside builds then developed nations will be forced to pull their financial support for Belo Monte. You can find out more by visiting amazonwatch.org.

-Nathan Gallagher

Main image credit: International Rivers, courtesy Flickr

Infographic by Nate Gallagher 

May 08 2012

17:39

UN, Indigenous Leaders Meet to Share Knowledge, Join in Climate Change Initiatives


Representatives from UN bodies have been meeting with indigenous community leaders, experts and climate scientists in a series of meeting during the last few years, the overarching aim of which is to ensure that indigenous peoples have a say in international climate negotiations and treaties, and that traditional knowledge is incorporated in a globally shared knowledge base of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, methods and tools.

The latest such meeting took place last month in Cairns, Australia, where attendees gathered for a three-day workshop entitled, “Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects.”

Case studies presented “identified current and emerging opportunities for indigenous peoples and local communities to contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon abatement and sequestration activities, including opportunities based on the provision of ecological services through application of traditional knowledge and practices,” according to a UNU-IAS news release.

Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples & Traditional Knowledge

“This meeting examined the current and potential contribution of indigenous peoples and local communities to climate change mitigation, as well as the impact on indigenous peoples and local communities of mitigation efforts,” said Govindan Parayil, Vice-Rector of the United Nations University (UNU), a co-convener of the workshop.

“What is unique about this workshop was the open dialogue between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, indigenous experts and community representatives,” continued Parayil. “We do hope it will enrich the IPCC assessment process.”

Lead authors responsible for preparing the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report participated in the workshop, discussing issues related to updating the UN IPCC’s definitive assessment of global climate change, which is due to be published in 2014. The Fifth Assessment Report is to provide the latest knowledge on the scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of climate change, UNU’s news release explains.

“For the Fifth Assessment Report, we are trying to consider all available human options for mitigating climate change”, said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the IPCC WGIII, who chaired the Cairns workshop. “The dialogue with experts and scientists on indigenous and local communities is inspiring, and we are grateful to the United Nations University to have set the stage for this dialogue.”

UNU and the IPCC organized two workshops to reach out to indigenous leaders and experts to ensure that they are included in UN processes related to climate change treaties, knowledge gathering, sharing and action program efforts. The first, which focused on adaptation and vulnerabilities, was held in Mexico City last July. The second focused on climate change mitigation, more specifically assessing the impacts such efforts have on indigenous peoples and communities, as well as identifying barriers preventing them from being directly involved and garnering benefits, according to UNU.

Indigenous people’s traditional knowledge base can be and is of great value in efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the UN representatives noted. Reducing emissions through fire management techniques, adopting renewable energies and engaging in resource management projects that conserve natural resources and enhance local communities’ ability to adapt to a changing climate were among the examples of traditional knowledge mentioned.

Living in comparatively marginalized, less developed areas still rich in natural resources, traditional indigenous communities are on the front lines in terms of having to mitigate and adapt to climate change. “There is a high level of interest in climate change mitigation within these communities, not least because climate change impacts on their territories and communities are likely to be both early and severe, posing a direct threat to many indigenous and marginalized societies given continuing reliance upon resource-based livelihoods,” UNU-IAS stated in its news release

*Video courtesy: UNU, IPCC

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February 03 2011

13:21

Isolated Amazon Tribes Threatened by Logging, Groups Say

n 2008, images of tribe members shooting arrows at an airplane quickly circulated the globe and were characterized by some of the news media as evidence of a "lost" Amazon tribe, although the Brazilian authorities said they had long been aware of the presence of uncontacted tribes in the area.

January 28 2011

13:19

Brazilian Dam Clears Hurdle

The dam will produce electricity for about 23 million people in major cities but flood roughly 200 square miles of land in the Amazon, displacing indigenous peoples.

September 24 2010

12:11

When a Drug Battle Spells Extinction

More than 40 percent of Colombia's 84 distinct indigenous groups are now at risk of extinction because of forced drug-trade recruitment and the fumigation of coca that destroys other crops.

September 11 2009

22:19

IDB Updates Its Biofuels Scorecard

From the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): IDB releases new version of Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard Update incorporates feedback from five regional consultations and addresses concerns regarding food security, indigenous peoples and biodiversity preservation The Inter-American Development Bank has released a new version of its Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard, which will enable users to better anticipate the impacts of potential biofuel [...]
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