Environmentalists Blast Construction License for Amazon Dam
By Amigos da Terra Amazonia Brasileira | Sao Paulo, Aug 14 2008
Environmental organizations have condemned the Brazilian government´s
approval of a license for construction of Santo Antonio Dam, on the
Madeira River in the Brazilian Amazon. The groups say that Brazil´s
environmental protection service, Ibama, has caved in to political
interests, ignoring the advice of its own technical staff in licensing
the dam, and approving a mitigation plan which will do little to
decrease its impacts.
Santo Antonio Dam would be the first of two dams to be built on the
Madeira, the Amazon´s principal tributary. Environmental impact
assessments predict serious impacts on the region´s biodiversity, and
on river bank communities, including indigenous tribes living close to
the reservoir area.
Glenn Switkes, of International Rivers, says "Environment Minister
Carlos Minc´s decision to license the dam demonstrates his mandate is
to accelerate the building of large-scale, high-impact projects in the
heart of Amazonia. The fact that construction will be permitted without
a definitive solution in place for fish passage threatens the
livelihoods of thousands of river bank dwellers who depend on
high-value fish species for their income".
Ibama required the consortium building the dam to submit an impact
mitigation plan to demonstrate how they would comply with 33 conditions
that the agency placed on the project. But independent analyses show
that the mitigation plans include vague promises that are restricted to
monitoring and further studies, rather than concrete measures to reduce
the project's impacts. Decisions regarding the project´s social and
environmental viability, which should have been analyzed during the
preliminary licensing phase, in July 2007, have been in effect deferred
until later, when it will be too late to avoid the project´s most
Despite the fact that the construction license was issued only today,
communities living close to the planned worksite have already been
pressured to leave their homes, and accept inadequate compensation
Iremar Ferreira, Executive Director of the Living Madeira Institute in
Porto Velho says "This is a serious violation of the human rights of
the displaced people. The only assistance they are being given is a
small payment for their land. As a result, they will have to find a way
to survive on abandoned cattle ranches, miles from the banks of the
Madeira where their families have lived for generations.
Friends of the Earth, Brazilian Amazon says the granting of the
construction license under these conditions will mean additional
challenges to the project in the courts, and predicts further project
delays, meaning added risks for investors and financiers of the project.
Gustavo Pimentel of Friends of the Earth says "The project violates the
Equator Principles (on project finance), and therefore should not be
financed by banks such as Bradesco, Banco do Brasil, Itaú, and Unibanco
that have committed to the principles. Brazilian banks have an
opportunity to prove that they are truly committed to sustainability by
refusing to finance the destruction of the Amazon".