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The Latin America Water Tribunal has ruled that the Brazilian government should halt plans to dam one of the main tributaries of the Amazon, because of the effects the dams would have on Indigenous people.
The Brazilian government has granted licences for the construction of massive hydroelectric dams on the Madeira River in the state of Rondônia, near the border with Peru and Bolivia. But Indigenous and environment organisations have long protested that the plans do not consider the affects the dams would have on contacted and uncontacted tribes, such as the Katina, Karipuna, Oro Bom, Cassupá, Salamai, Katawixi, Uru-eu-Wau-Wau.
The tribunal condemns the Brazilian government for ignoring the rights of Indigenous peoples, and breaching both International Labour Organisation Convention 169 (to which Brazil is a signatory) and Brazil’s constitution. It recommends that the dams do not go ahead before studies are carried out with the participation of contacted tribes in the areas that will be affected. It also stipulates that uncontacted Indians’ rights to safety and to remain isolated must be preserved.
Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo, of local organisation Kanindé, says, ‘The tribunal’s verdict is very important to us, as it makes quite clear that other [institutions] are also worried and acknowledge that the lives of isolated Indians are endangered’.
The Latin American Water Tribunal is an independent body that was established to mediate environmental conflicts. It judges and morally condemns serious harm done to water systems in Latin America.