Damn the Dam: The Threat One Mega-Dam Poses to the Amazon and Those Who Live There

by Tica Minami

March 21, 2016

The Tapajós River – in the heart of the Amazon – is home to thousands of people and incomparable biodiversity. But all that could change if a proposed mega-dam project moves forward.

© Fábio Nascimento / Greenpeac

At the moment you’re reading this, the Tapajós River is flowing unimpeded through rainforest deep in the Brazilian Amazon. Its waters teem with life – including pink river dolphins! Its banks are home to hundreds of types of birds, lizards, and amphibians, as well as mammals like the jaguar, giant anteater and ocelot.

Thousands of Munduruku Indigenous peoples depend on this river and its thriving ecosystem for their livelihoods, as they have for centuries. But all this could change if the Brazilian government moves forward with a plan to construct a series of forty dams along the Tapajós River basin.

Map of the Tapajos Dam Project

The largest of the proposed sites – the 7.6km-wide São Luiz do Tapajós dam – would flood so much of the Tapajós, it would create a reservoir the size of New York City (729 km²). In the process, it would wash away lakes, rock formations, islands and other crucial habitat — destroying some of the traditional lands of Munduruku people as well.

Standing with the Munduruku

Munduruku Hunter by the Tapajos River in Brazil

Damming the river would destroy the environmental balance of the region, and the communities that depend on it. That’s why Greenpeace Brazil activists are joining forces with Munduruku leaders in protest to demand an end to the São Luiz do Tapajós dam project.

This weekend, activists joined the Munduruku on the Tapajós River to send a clear message to the world: “Damn the dam. Keep the Tapajós River alive.”

“We oppose the dam construction because our lives depend on the river and the forest and they belong to us. If the Tapajós River is dammed, we will lose our fish ground, our means of transport; we will lose our way of life,” explains a Chief from the Sawre Muybu Indigenous Land, Juarez Saw Munduruku.

A long road ahead

The Munduruku people have been fighting dam projects on their land for decades, and the Brazilian government has failed to consult them in the planning process for the São Luiz do Tapajós dam.

Instead, the political interests behind this dam and other mega-dam projects focus on corporate profit – feeding a vicious circle of corruption and misuse of public money. Other dams in the Amazon, such as the Belo Monte mega-dam< on the Xingu River are even part of an ongoing corruption investigation in Brazil. There is another way. Clean and responsible energy sources, such as solar and wind, can meet the supply needs for all Brazilians without destroying biodiversity and the livelihoods of local communities. Join us in the first step towards that future. Stand in solidarity with the Munduruku people and act to stop the damming of the Tapajós River. Together, we can keep the Tapajós alive. Tapajos River

By Tica Minami

Tica Minami is the head of the Amazon campaign at Greenpeace Brazil.

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