Brazil Cancels Tapajós Dam Auction Due to Indigenous Concerns

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Tapajós River

Tapajós River
Photo by International Rivers

Brazilian authorities have suspended the auction of the centerpiece of the massive Tapajós hydroelectric complex, reports Agência Brasil

The auction, scheduled for this December, was for the 6.1-gigawatt São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric plant, which accounts for more than half the planned installed capacity of the 11-gigawatt Tapajós and Jamanxim dam complex. The Mining and Energy Ministry said it needed to further study the potential impact of the project on indigenous communities. 

The move comes shortly after activists stepped up a campaign on the issue. On Tuesday, Amazon Watch and International Rivers issued a statement condemning the Brazilian government for insufficient consultation with communities living in the area that would be affected by the project. 

“In cases such as São Luiz do Tapajós, political decisions regarding which new dams will be built are based solely on criteria of maximizing energy generation, without consulting indigenous peoples and before studies on the socio-environmental impacts and economic viability of projects have been completed. Moreover, there’s a chronic tendency for technical studies commissioned by dam proponents to seriously underestimate or simply ignore major social and environmental impacts and risks,” said Brent Millikan from International Rivers. “Clearly, such practices contradict Brazilian legislation and international agreements such as ILO Convention 169 on free, prior and informed consultations and consent.” 

Plans for dozens of dams on the Tapajós and its tributaries have been widely criticized by environmental NGOs and rights groups, who say the scheme will flood forests, including protected areas; exacerbate deforestation; disrupt river ecology; block fish migration routes; and impact indigenous communities. More broadly, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador are engaged in a dam-building spree across the Amazon. Brazil has more than 200 dams — including 55 large dams — planned for the region.