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Indigenous Brazilians say “no” to Belo Monte
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Half million people presented a petition to President Rousseff to block controversial hydroelectric project.

Hundreds of native peoples from Brazil´s Amazon, environmentalists and human rights activists marched in the country´s capital on Feb. 8 to protest the proposed Belo Monte dam, a hydroelectric project that would flood thousands of hectares of Amazon rainforest.

The demonstrators presented President Dilma Rousseff, who took office in January, with a 500,000-signature petition to block the project, which would become the third largest dam in the world.

The Belo Monte dam, an US$11 billion-project, would displace some 50,000 people and hurt the delicate ecosystem. Many of the would-be victims are indigenous, a group already threatened by Brazil´s expanding industrial sector. They rely heavily on the Amazon tributaries for fishing and would see their environment destroyed.

Protesters, some of them wearing native garb, marched through the streets of Brasilia to demand that the project be halted. In late January, the Brazilian Environmental Institute fueled the outcry after it gave the green light for the construction of “necessary infrastructure” for the dam, including clearing hundreds of hectares of forests and new roads.

Following that, France-based Alstom, signed a deal for 500 million euros ($674.1 million) to provide equipment in this initial stage of the 11,000MW-project. The plant is expected to start operations in 2015.

Organizations such as Survival International, Amazon Watch, the Indigenist Missionary Council, which is tied to Brazil´s Catholic Church, and dozens of others have demanded that Rousseff´s government stop the project, which they say will cause irreparable environmental and social harm.

“The Brazilian public is sending a loud and clear message, one that is being echoed internationally that the Dilma government needs to rethink the Belo Monte dam and opt for more sustainable ways of meeting Brazil´s energy needs,” said Christian Poirier, Brazil Program Coordinator for Amazon Watch. “The Belo Monte dam project is foolish on so many levels — from its social and environmental impacts on our climate and on the people and the rainforests of the Amazon to its technical and economic viability.”
—Latinamerica Press.

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