Belo Monte dam marks a troubling new era in Brazil’s attitude to its rainforest (The Ecologist)

Karen Hoffmann

15th August, 2011

Belo Monte is just one of a dozen giant dam projects Brazil plans to build in the Amazon region in the coming decades and opens up the world’s largest tropical rainforest to oil and mining exploration

The Kayapó chief stands, and a hush comes over the circle. All the other caciques wait expectantly for Raoni Metuktire to speak.

Instead, he starts to dance, whooping and shouting, a dance for the enemy. Afterwards, he speaks. ‘I will go there, to Belo Monte, and warn my family,’ he says, the disc in his lower lip punctuating his words. ‘What happened with Tucuruí will not happen again.’

His nephew Megaron Txukurramãe translating, Raoni exhorts the chiefs gathered at the 50th anniversary of Brazil’s Xingu Indigenous Park: ‘I want you to feel strong, you are great! I want to see you fighting!’

Raoni and Megaron are intimately familiar with the Belo Monte dam. They’ve been fighting it for decades. Belo Monte’s first incarnation was called Kararaô, a name that was quickly changed after indigenous people pointed out that the word, in Tupi, means ‘war.’

In 1989, a major protest was held in the town of Altamira. Even Sting showed up at the event. In a memorable speech, a Kayapó woman said: ‘Electricity won’t give us food. We need the rivers to flow freely. Don’t talk to us about relieving our ‘poverty’ – we are the richest people in Brazil. We are Indians.’ (See‘Adios Amazonia?’ in the Ecologist, Vol 19 No 2, March/April 1989)

That protest put the brakes on Belo Monte for two decades. But now, the project is on the fast track once again. …

(More at The Ecologist)


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