Federal Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil’s Amazon region suspended all work today on the Belo Monte Dam, invalidating the project’s environmental and installation licenses.
While the project has been suspended previously on numerous occasions, and those suspensions overturned on political grounds, this latest decision could have some legs. The decision breaks down in the following way:
- The federal judge ruled that no consultations were held with indigenous people prior to Congress issuing Decree 788 in 2005, which effectively approved the Belo Monte Dam. Article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution requires consultations to be held directly by the Congress prior to approval. In this case, approval was given three years before publication of the environmental impact assessment, and no consultations with indigenous peoples were ever carried out by the Brazilian Congress.
- As a result, the project’s environmental license (granted in 2010) and installation license (granted in 2011) are now considered invalid, meaning that no further work can continue on the dam.
- Brazil’s National Congress must hold a series of public hearings, or consultations, with the indigenous tribes that will be affected by Belo Monte. Only after such consultations occur and are considered satisfactory, must the Congress legislate a new approval for the dam.
- The government and project consortium Norte Energia, S.A. can appeal to Brazil’s Supreme Court, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice, the President of the Federal Tribunal, and Brazil’s Attorney General, in the next 30 days. Since this is a constitutional matter, the appeal is likely to go to the Supreme Court.
In a press conference given today late in Brasil, Souza Prudente stated that “only in a dictatorial regime does a government approve a project before holding consultations.”
The decision supports the arguments that the affected tribes have been making over the lifetime of Belo Monte: tribes will face downstream livelihood impacts as a result of a reduction in the flow of the Xingu River on the 100-km stretch known as the Volta Grande or “Big Bend,” and were never properly consulted, much less gave their consent.
In the words of the decision itself,
“installation will cause direct interference in the minimal ecological existence of the indigenous communities, with negative and irreversible impacts on their health, quality of life, and cultural patrimony, on the lands that they have traditionally occupied for time immemorial. This requires the authorization of the National Congress after holding prior consultations with these communities, as deemed by law, under the penalty of suspension of the authorization, which has been granted illegally.”
You can literally put facts in front of people, and they will just ignore them.
— Mark Lubell, the director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at the University of California-Davis • Discussing the nature of the debate over “fracking” in recent months, where both sides have been known to use questionable facts to support their arguments for or against the practice. Example: Protesters claim that the air pollution threats caused by fracking are significant, despite the evidence that the popularity of the practice cuts back on the production of far-more-damaging-to-the-atmosphere coal energy. On top of this, EPA regulations have helped to limit air pollution from fracking. Honestly, environmental issues are emotional. But let’s be honest when bringing up said emotional issues. (via shortformblog)
Environmental devastation will not be stopped in conference rooms and treaty negotiations: only mass action can make a difference. Urban and rural workers, peoples of the global south and indigenous peoples everywhere are at the forefront of this struggle against environmental and social injustice, fighting exploitative and polluting multinationals, poisonous and disenfranchising agribusinesses, invasive genetically modified seeds, biofuels that only aggravate the current food crisis. We must further these social-environmental movements and build solidarity between anticapitalist ecological mobilizations in the North and the South.
— The Belem Ecosocialist Declaration (via socialuprooting)
While many Americans were firing up barbecues and breaking out the sparklers to celebrate Independence Day, biotech industry executives were more likely chilling champagne to celebrate another kind of independence: immunity from federal law.
A so-called “Monsanto rider,” quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, would require – not just allow, but require - the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. All the farmer or the biotech producer has to do is ask, and the questionable crops could be released into the environment where they could potentially contaminate conventional or organic crops and, ultimately, the nation’s food supply.