Amazon citizens occupy Belo Monte Dam site, restore river’s natural flow

• June 15, 2012
Freeing the river at the Belo Monte dam site

Courtesy: Atossa Soltani / Amazon Watch / Spectral Q, 2012

Earlier today, three hundred indigenous people, small farmers, fisherfolk, and local residents occupied the Belo Monte Dam project, removing a strip of earth to restore the Xingu’s natural flow and “freeing the river.” Participants gathered in formation spelling out the words “Pare Belo Monte” meaning “Stop Belo Monte” to send a powerful message about the devastating impacts of the dam prior to the UN Rio+20 Summit. They are demanding the cancellation of the $18 billion Belo Monte dam project.

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.

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.

“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.” - Antonia Melo, Coordinator of Xingu Vivo Movement

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.

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