The Belo Monte Dam

On the Xingu River, tributary of the Amazon, Brazil.

On the Xingu River, tributary of the Amazon, Brazil. | Credit: André Solnik / Creative Commons. 

Brazil

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When fully operational, Belo Monte will be the third-largest dam in the world, constructed in one of the most important ecosystems on the planet: the Amazon rainforest. It sits on the Xingu River in Pará, a state in northern Brazil. The reservoir will cover 500 square kilometers of forest and farmland—an area the size of Chicago.

For the people of the Xingu, construction of Belo Monte has meant loss of access to water, food, housing, work and transportation. At least 20,000 people have been displaced.

The government and construction consortium began to construct the dam without first consulting the people of the region, many of whom are indigenous. They flouted international human rights law, which requires the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities. Brazil also failed to comply with precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which were intended to protect the life, health, and integrity of local communities.

Though Belo Monte began operations in May 2016, it is not yet operating at full capacity. In April 2017, a federal court suspended the dam's operating license because the consortium in charge did not complete basic sanitation works in Altamira, the city nearest to and most affected by the dam.

The Belo Monte Dame will divert 80% of the Xingu River from its course.

What is AIDA doing? 

AIDA continues to represent affected people and communities in their quest to hold the government of Brazil responsible for the damages done to their lives.

In 2011, AIDA and partner organizations from Brazil requested precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Four years later, on December 21, 2015, the Commission finally opened the case for processing.

A litigation process has begun, in which Brazil must respond to the claims of human rights violations contained in the petition, and in which AIDA will update the Commission on the current situation.

After considering all the evidence, the Commission may issue recommendations to Brazil to make amends for the violations. If Brazil fails to comply, the Commission may also advance the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Court has the power to issue a ruling condemning Brazil for human rights violations and to recommend reparations.

AIDA is also generating international pressure on Brazil by reporting on the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

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