BRAZIL’S MUNDURUKU HALTED DAM CONSTRUCTION
The Munduruku are making a series of concrete demands they want fulfilled before they end the occupation. One is a request that their “robbed urns” – sacred urns that were removed during the construction of the São Manoel dam — be taken to “a place where no Pariwat [white person] has access,” with their shamans accompanying the journey. It would set a legal precedent for the Indians to get the urns returned because, according to Brazilian law, the urns are archaeological relics, belonging to the national state, and should go to an appropriate museum.
Another demand is for the hydroelectric companies to create a “Munduruku Fund” for four specific projects. One is for the creation of an indigenous university and another is for increased protection of their remaining sacred sites.
São Manoel Energia was unwilling to reply to Mongabay’s specific questions with respect to the Indians’ demands but sent a press release in which it stated that it was “totally committed to finding a solution that will guarantee the safety of the local communities, collaborators and the project.” It said that it had fulfilled rigorously all the conditions set by the authorities for the construction of the dam and was adhering to current legislation. This is, however, disputed by critics of the project and the Federal Public Ministry.
While São Manoel Energia is carrying out the construction work, the plant is owned by a consortium made up of Portuguese-owned Energias do Brasil, Brazil state-owned Furnas, and China Three Gorges Corporation, one of China’s early moves into Amazon megaprojects.
The Munduruku and other indigenous people have been severely damaged by the construction of two large dams – the completed 1,800-megawatt Teles Pires and the partially completed 746-megawatt São Manoel dam. Mongabay visited the Teles Pires village last year.
It is too early to calculate the long-term impact of the São Manoel dam but university lecturer fish expert Solange Arrolho, from the Mato Grosso State University, told Mongabay that the Teles Pires dam further down the river, which began operations in November 2015, had impacted fish migration.