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Re-Occupied: Indigenous Groups Retake Brazil's Belo Monte Dam

Common Dreams staff

photo: International Rivers

Indigenous groups have occupied the Belo Monte dam, successfully bringing construction work on the dam in Brazil to a halt in an effort to prevent the destruction of their environment.

Over 120 indigenous protesters on Monday joined a group of fishermen who continue their 24-day occupation over the plans to dam the Xingu River in the Amazon, conservation group Amazon Watch reports.

The protesters say Norte Energia, the dam construction consortium, is disregarding agreements made months ago.

"This singular alliance of Indians and fishermen is aimed at blowing the whistle on the construction company which has not kept promises made in June, during the Rio sustainable development summit," Maira Irigaray, spokeswoman for the "Xingu Vivo" movement, told Agence France-Presse.

Amazon Watch adds the specifics:

The demonstrators accuse the consortium of damming the final canal of the river without having solved the matter of how to move boat traffic from one side of the cofferdam to the other, as required by the Installation License issued by the federal environmental agency IBAMA.

According to item 2.6 of the Installation License, the final damming of the river cannot be permitted, nor can the consortium be permitted to interrupt the movement of vessels, until the provisional system providing for the transport of boats across cofferdams is fully functional.

"We are witnessing the devastation of this land. The island of Pimental was completely destroyed, with a sole tree left standing, and the water is putrid. It is very shocking," said a protestor.

The is the second time the dam is occupied in the last few months.  In June, at least 200 protesters brought construction to a temporary halt when they occupied the dam.

Mongabay reports on the impacts of the dam to the ecosystem and indigenous people:

The Belo Monte dam, which would be the world's third largest, has been plagued by controversy from its origin decades ago; the battle for the dam has been fought both in Brazil's courts and on the international stage. If built, the dam will flood an estimated 40,000 hectares of present rainforest and could push some fish species to extinction. In addition, 16,000 people will be displaced according to the government, though some NGOs say the number is more likely double that.

Protesters have vowed to stay until Norte Energia complies with the agreements.

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