Brazilian appeals court suspends Belo Monte dam

A group of judges from Brazil’s Regional Federal Tribunal (TRF1) suspended construction of the Belo Monte dam project on the Amazon’s Xingu River Aug. 14, finding that indigenous people had not been properly consulted prior to approval of the project. The ruling upheld an earlier decision that declared the Brazilian Congress’ authorization of the project in 2005 to be unconstitutional. The decision finds that the Brazilian constitution and ILO Convention 169, to which Brazil is party, require that Congress can only authorize the use of water resources for hydroelectric projects after an independent assessment of environmental impacts and subsequent consultations with affected indigenous peoples.

The ruling means the Brazilian Congress will have to correct its previous lapse by organizing consultations on the project’s impacts with affected indigenous peoples of the Xingu River, especially the Juruna, Arara and Xikrin tribes.  In the decision, Judge Souza Prudente ordered that the Brazilian government must consult with native communities before any further construction on the dam proceeds. Norte Energia, the company responsible for building the dam, can appeal the decision to either the Brazil Supreme Court or the Superior Court of Justice. If completed, the 11 million megawatt Belo Monte dam would be the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world, behind Three Gorges Dam in China, and Itaipu Dam, which is run by Brazil and Paraguay. (UDWJurist, Aug. 15)