Amazonian communities occupy the Belo Monte dam site to free the Xingu River

July, 2013

Value Based Learning

The following statement describes the resistance of the Amazon community in the northern region of Brazil to the government's unsustainable energy policy .

Scroll down to the end of the article for questions based on the Earth Charter principles to evaluate the impact of the Bel Monte dam project on the Xingu River and on the lives of residents-farmers, fisher folk, indigenous peoples-living in the region.

Altamira, Brazil – While the Brazilian Government prepares to host the Rio+20 United Nations Earth Summit, 3,000 kilometers north in the country's Amazon region indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, activists and local residents affected by the construction of the massive Belo Monte Dam project began a symbolic peaceful occupation of the dam site to "free the Xingu River."

In the early morning hours, three hundred women and children arrived in the hamlet of Belo Monte on the Transamazon Highway, and marched onto a temporary earthen dam recently built to impede the flow of the Xingu River. Using pick axes and shovels, local people who are being displaced by the project removed a strip of earthen dam to restore the Xingu's natural flow.

Residents gathered in formation spelling out the words "Pare Belo Monte" meaning "Stop Belo Monte" to send a powerful message to the world prior to the gathering in Rio and demanding the cancellation of the $18 billion Belo Monte dam project (aerial photos of the human banner available upon request). Demonstrators planted five hundred native açai trees to stabilize the riverbank that has been destroyed by the initial construction of the Belo Monte dam. They also erected 200 crosses on the banks of the Xingu to honor the lives of those lost defending the Amazon.

Also this morning, hundreds of residents of Altamira held a march to the headquarters of dam-building consortium NESA. The actions are part of Xingu+23, a multi-day series of festivities, debates and actions commemorating 23 years since the residents of the Xingu first defeated the original Belo Monte dam. Residents have been gathering in the community of San Antonio, a hamlet displaced by the consortium's base of operations and in Altamira, a boomtown of 130,000 severely affected by the dam project.

Antonia Melo, the coordinator of Xingu Vivo Movement said, "This battle is far from being over. This is our cry: we want this river to stay alive. This dam will not be built. We, the people who live along the banks of the Xingu, who subsist from the river, who drink from the river, and who are already suffering from of the most irresponsible projects in the history of Brazil are demanding: Stop Belo Monte."

Sheyla Juruna, a leader from the Juruna indigenous community affected by the dam said, "The time is now! The Brazilian government is killing the Xingu River and destroying the lives of indigenous peoples. We need to send a message that we have not been silenced and that this is our territory. We vow to take action in our own way to stop the Belo Monte dam. We will defend our river until the end!"

Protestors and affected communities are highlighting the glaring gap between reality and the Brazilian government's rhetoric about Amazon dams as a source of "clean energy" for a "green economy." The Belo Monte dam is the tip of the iceberg of an unprecedented wave of 70 large dams proposed for in the Amazon Basin fueled by narrow political and economic interests, with devastating and irreversible consequences for one of the world's most precious biomes and its peoples.

A delegation of international observers and human rights advocates including Brazilian actor Sergio Marone of the Drop of Water Movement came to witness and lend visibility to the actions.

Slated to be the 3rd largest hydroelectric project in the world, Belo Monte would divert 80 percent of the Xingu River's flow through artificial canals, flooding over 600 square kilometers of rainforest while drying out a 100-kilometer stretch of the river known as the "Big Bend," which is home to hundreds of indigenous and riverine families. Though sold to the public as "clean energy," Belo Monte would generate an enormous amount of methane, a greenhouse gas 25-50 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Amazon Watch, International Rivers, Movimento Xingu Vivo, June 15, 2012



A value-based ethical framework for evaluating social and ecological events, conditions and practices       Anita L. Wenden

  Before reflecting upon the questions that follow, see and
  ww for more details on the Bel Monte Dam project.



Is the Bel Monte dam project ecologically sustainable? 

1) How will Earth's resources, her life-supporting systems be affected by the construction of the massive Bel Monte dam? the 70 other large dams proposed for the Amazon Basin?

2) Have plans been made to prevent or remediate possible ill effects of constructing the dam?

3) Will the production of clean energy outweigh the environmental degradation brought on by the dam?



Is this clean energy project socially just?
1) In choosing to dam the Xingju River, which is the source of livelihood for indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk  in the region where it flows, is  the government’s power and wealth being used to equally benefit all Brazilians?  If not, which groups will suffer?  How?  Which of their human rights will be violated?  Which groups will benefit?  How?  
 2) Should the people of the Amazong Basin be compensated for the threat to their livelihood and wellbeing posed by the Xingju River Dam? How? By whom? What plan have been made, if any, to do so?



Has the approach to resolving the conflict between the opposing groups been nonviolent?
1) Have the plans to construct the dam led to conflict? If yes, between which groups? Why?  What means were taken by the government, if any, to resolve it? by the affected groups in the Amazon Basin community?
2) Did the conflict lead to physical force or aggression? psychological violence? Or were nonviolent means used? If so, what were they and who used these various forms of resolving conflict?   Has the conflict been resolved? If not, why not?



Does the Xingju River project take into account the Earth rights and human rights of future generations?
1) How will the construction of these massive dams in the Amazon region affect the wellbeing of future generations? To what extent will it use up or diminish their legacy? Consider the effects on the (1) Earth’s life support systems and on (2) social stability and harmony.
2) Do citizens in the present generation have the right to use up the legacy of future generations?
3) What should local and national governments do to ensure that the rights of future generations are not violated in this regard? international decision-making bodies?



Has the decision to construct the dam involved all concerned in a transparent and participatory decision-making process?
1  )   In dealing with this problem, have the concerns of individuals and groups who will be affected by the Xingu River dam been solicited? If so, how? Have their suggestions been taken into account?   
2 ) Have citizens taken their own actions to deal with the problem?


 Should the Brazilian government proceed with the project? Why? Why not? Share your opinion with a friend and/or