13 November 2006

Judge Orders Re-Start of Paranatinga II Dam Construction

In a recent judgement, the construction of the Paranatinga II hydroelectric dam, located on the Culuene River at a point which is sacred to the tribes of the Xingu Indigenous Park, was given the go-ahead to recommence. The Indians of the Xingu Park, together with other tribes, are pledged to occupy the construction site and are fighting to have it demarcated because of its cultural significance.

Apart from the cultural significance of the site, the construction of the dam would be an environmental disaster for the Xingu basin. The Culuene is one of the major tributaries, and is the spawning ground for many species of fish. The dam will cut off the route for the female fish to reach the upper parts of the river to lay their eggs. It would also interrupt the flow of water into the Xingu, changing the ecology of the river irreversibly.

The Xingu communities have already noticed a substantial reduction in fish stocks in the river as a result of degradation of the environment surrounding the headwaters. The river is reduced to approximately two thirds of the size reported by von den Steinen a hundred and twenty years ago. This is almost certainly due to the reduction in forest cover from the relentless march forward of agriculture.

Previously, construction of the dam was halted by a decision of the Federal court. The court found that the environmental assessment carried out and approved by the State of Mato Grosso was flawed, and that the dam should have been subject to a federal environmental assessment. The latest judgement reverses that decision.

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