Friday, July 11, 2008

Indians Close Ranks Against Dams in the Amazon

The government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva this year has proposed construction of the Jirau and San Antonio dams, the first part of the complex in Brazilian territory. But Bolivian residents of the northern Amazon fear it will unleash environmental harm and devastate their lands. The organisations representing them met Jun. 29 in the northern city of Riberalta and declared an emergency. A declaration by seven labour groups and the Movement of People Affected by Dams of the western Brazilian state of Rondonia, seen by Tierramérica, called on the Bolivian government "not to negotiate or sign any type of agreement" with Brazil. The Madera, the Spanish name of the river where it begins in Bolivia, or the Madeira, its Portuguese name in Brazil, originates in the Andes Mountains, formed by the Beni and Madre de Dios rivers, and ultimately flows into the Amazon River. The Madera crosses a biodiverse region, with a binational path of rapids and "cachuelas", or low cascades. This geography is not suitable for river navigation, but has hydroelectric potential. Researchers at the Institute of Hydrology and Hydraulics of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA) and of the Research for Development Institute, along with experts supported by the non-governmental Bolivian Forum for Environment and Development (Fobomade) are trying to determine the risks Bolivia faces in the construction of the dams. Although the dam is to be built in Brazilian taerritory, there will be impacts in Bolivia as well, UMSA researcher Jorge Molina told Tierramérica. The preliminary results of the study indicate that there would be blockage of rivers and tributaries, with subsequent flooding, severe losses of aquatic diversity and of farmable land, as well as displacement of indigenous communities. ...

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