New wave of dam building threatens Amazon Indians

As Brazil celebrates its national ‘Day of the Indian’ on 19 April, a new wave of dam building in the Brazilian Amazon is threatening the lives of remote Indian tribes.

Six tribes, including the isolated Enawene Nawe, face the prospect of up to 11 dams being built along the Juruena river which runs through their territory. At the same time an old plan to build five major dams along the Xingu river has been resurrected and will threaten the livelihoods of the 18 tribes of the region. The original plan was shelved in 1989 following massive international outcry.

The remote Enawene Nawe number just 420 and live largely by fishing. They are protesting against plans by soya companies led by the world’s largest soya producers, the Maggi family, to dam the Juruena river for hydroelectric power for the industry. The Enawene Nawe, unlike most Amazon tribes, eat no red meat. The dams would severely disrupt the breeding cycles of the fish they rely on, and destroy their livelihood and unique rituals associated with the fishing cycle.

The Enawene Nawe have said, ‘The dams will bring our death, as they will raise the uncontrollable anger of the spirits.’ They have written an open letter expressing their anger.

The Xingu dams project was abandoned in 1989 after the Kayapó tribe staged huge protests and captured the attention of the world’s media. The Kayapó are now seeking support for another campaign against the Xingu dams.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Damming the Enawene Nawe’s river would spell disaster for this unique tribe. The dams must not go ahead. As for the Xingu river, it’s hard to believe that the Brazilian government is even contemplating this disgraced project again.’

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0) 20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]