Greenpeace report slams Brazil plan for Tapajos dam in Amazon

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Greenpeace called on Brazilian authorities on Tuesday to reject an environmental assessment for a hydroelectric dam on the Tapajos River in the Amazon because it was a “marketing tool” that disregarded the indigenous people living along its banks.

Munduruku Indian warriors stand over an area of jungle cleared by wildcat gold miners during a search for illegal gold mines and miners in their territory in western Para state, January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Bidding for construction of the large Sao Luiz do Tapajos dam has been postponed until next year by Brazil’s government because it has not obtained a license from environmental agency IBAMA due to differences over indigenous rights.

Greenpeace commissioned scientists to study an environmental impact assessment presented by state-run Eletrobras, Brazil’s largest power utility holding, and a group of other electricity companies. The scientists concluded that the assessment had minimized the impact of the dam, the first of three planned on the Tapajos River.

“The EIA looks like a marketing tool and not a source of information,” the Greenpeace report said. It said a deeper study would show the dam was not feasible environmentally or socially.

Greenpeace said the Munduruku people, the largest indigenous group in the Tapajos basin with around 12,000 living along the river, had not been consulted in the planning of the dam.

Philip Fearnside, one of the nine scientists commissioned by Greenpeace and an expert on the Amazon and climate change, said that was shocking considering 11.7 million hectares of Munduruku territory will be flooded, including places they hold as sacred, said

“Dams are decided in Brazil with no consideration of their social and environmental impact, only financial criteria,” Fearnside said at the presentation of the Greenpeace report.

A federal prosecutor at the event, Deborah Duprat, called the environmental impact assessment a “lie” and a “fraud.”

The companies led by Eletrobras that are behind the hydro project said they could not comment on the Greenpeace report because they did not have access to it.

The Tapajos dam, which will generate about 4,000 MW on average depending on river levels, is a priority for President Dilma Rousseff’s government as it strives to cover Brazil’s growing energy deficit.

But the project is already getting caught in controversy over indigenous and environmental issues that delayed the building of the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River.

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations on Saturday, Rousseff said hydro power was an environmentally friendly source of energy and a country as big as Brazil had no choice but to continue building dams.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman