Construction workers have begun to bulldoze land in the Brazilian Amazon to make way for the controversial Belo Monte mega-dam.
Earlier this week, Norte Energia, the company building the dam, sent its workers to the dam site to start building infrastructure for the project.
This follows the government environmental agency’s issuing of a partial installation licence for the dam, in January. The licence was suspended soon after it was issued, as a judge ruled the dam did not meet environmental standards. But the suspension was then overturned by a higher court, last week.
The Belo Monte dam, if built, will be the third largest in the world. It threatens to harm vast areas of forest and reduce fish stocks in the rivers, upon which thousands of tribal people living in the area depend for their survival.
Hundreds of Indians of various tribes have been protesting against the dam, warning that if it is built, the Xingu River will become a ‘river of blood’, and a ‘war’ could commence.
Last week, three indigenous leaders from the Amazon protested in London outside the office of Brazil’s development bank BNDES, which is providing a large proportion of the funds for the project.
Sheyla Juruna of the Juruna tribe from the Xingu region, said of Belo Monte and other Amazon dams, ‘The dams will bring irreversible cultural, social and environmental damage. BNDES, by investing in the dams, is investing in the destruction of the Amazon. We are being treated like animals – all our rights are being violated’.
Last month, Indians delivered a petition signed by around half a million people, to Brazil’s new President, Dilma Rousseff, urging her to put a stop to this ‘disastrous’ project.
On Monday 14 March, Indians of the Xingu region will participate in a large communal fishing trip in protest against Belo Monte.
Further licensing is required before the dam can be fully constructed.