"We are no longer familiar with the Xingú River," whose waters govern "our way of life, our income, our food and our navigation," lamented Bel Juruna, a young indigenous leader from Brazil´s Amazon rainforest.
An energy transition is spreading around the globe. But in Brazil it will be characterised by sharp contrasts, with large hydroelectric plants being replaced by solar microgenerators and government decisions being replaced by family and community decision-making.
The decline of this town is seen in the rundown houses and shuttered stores, and the few people along the streets on a Sunday when the scorching sun alternates with frequent rains at this time of year in Brazil’s Amazon region.
The Juruna indigenous village of Miratu mourned the death of Jarliel twice: once on October 26, when he drowned in the Xingu River, and the second time when the sacred burial ground was flooded by an unexpected rise in the river that crosses Brazil’s Amazon region.
An era of mega-events and mega-projects is coming to a close in Brazil with the Olympic Games to be hosted Aug. 5-21 by Rio de Janeiro. But the country’s taste for massive construction undertakings helped fuel the economic and political crisis that has it in its grip.
Brazil, which boasts that it has one of the cleanest energy mixes in the world, is now plagued by corruption, poor market conditions, and bad decisions – a near fatal combination.
Brazil’s rush to build hydroelectric dams, refineries, railways, ports and other megaprojects since the last decade, not only at home but in other countries as well, has been fueled by the sheer volume of financing from its development bank.
Paulo de Oliveira drives a taxi in the northern Brazilian city of Altamira, but only when he is out of work in what he considers his true profession: operator of heavy vehicles like trucks, mixers or tractor loaders.
Ethnocide, the new accusation leveled against the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, brings to light deeper underlying aspects of the conflicts and controversies unleashed by megaprojects in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
Small-scale fisherpersons were among the first forgotten victims of mega construction projects like the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingú River in the Brazilian Amazon.
Some argue that the sustainable use of biodiversity is the best alternative for local development in the area surrounding the enormous Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, now that the construction project is entering its final phase on the Xingú River in Brazil’s Amazon jungle.
Extensive public health infrastructure and the eradication of malaria will be the most important legacy of the construction of the Belo Monte hydropower dam in Brazil’s Amazon jungle for the population affected by the megaproject.
“Now we realise what a paradise we live in,” said Darcirio Wronski, a leader of the organic cacao producers in the region where the Trans-Amazonian highway cuts across the Xingú river basin in northern Brazil.
Valdenor de Melo has been waiting for 27 years for the land and cash compensation he is due because his old farm was left underwater when the Itaparica hydroelectric dam was built on the São Francisco river in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast.
It took them three days to make the 2,000-km journey by bus from their Amazon jungle villages.
South America has gone from the world’s granary to the site of innumerable international infrastructure, energy and mining megaprojects. It is now facing a new dilemma: bolstering the economy with the promise of reducing inequality, in exchange for social and environmental costs that are taking their toll.
Everything indicates that the decisive battle between harnessing hydropower and preserving the Amazon will play out in the Tapajós river basin in Brazil. At stake there are a potential of nearly 30,000 MW and a vital part of the Amazon rainforest.