RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Land rights campaigners have welcomed the suspension of a mega-dam project in Brazil’s Amazon basin which would have flooded an area the size of New York City and displaced indigenous communities.
The São Luiz do Tapajós dam would have forced Munduruku indigenous people out of their traditional territory while disrupting the Amazon ecosystem, a campaigner said on Friday.
The move by Brazil’s environment agency IBAMA to suspend construction permits for the dam followed a report by the country’s National Indian Foundation which said the project would have violated indigenous land rights protected under Brazil’s constitution.
“The areas that would have been flooded include sites of important religious and cultural significance,” Brent Millikan, a Brasilia-based campaigner with the non-profit rights group International Rivers told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The local communities have a huge amount of knowledge about the resources where they are - if they were forced off the land and into cities they would become unskilled workers.”
Brazil’s environment agency said this week that it suspended licensing due to “the infeasibility of the project from the perspective of indigenous issues”. The dam would have flooded 178,000 hectares of land.
The decision comes as South America’s largest country faces a political crisis following a congressional vote to impeach President Dilma Rouseff who is embroiled in a corruption scandal as the nation grapples with its worst recession since the 1930s.
Supporters of the dam, which was expected to produce around 8,000 megawatts of electricity, say it would have provided green power and jobs in a country which needs both.
Hydroelectric power plants produce about 80 percent of the electricity generated in Brazil.
Backers of the dam have a 90 day period where they can appeal the suspension and submit revised plans on the size of the flooded area and how to deal with the local indigenous population, Millikan said.