Amazonian tribes unite to demand Brazil stop hydroelectric dams

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 4/30/2015

Four Amazonian tribes have joined forces to oppose the construction of hydroelectric dams in their territory as the Brazilian government ramps up efforts to exploit the power of rivers in the world’s biggest forest.

The Munduruku, Apiaká, Kayabi and Rikbaktsa released a joint statement on Thursday demanding the halt of construction on a cascade of four dams on the Teles Pires – a tributary of the Tapajós.

They say the work at the main area of concern – the São Manoel dam – threatens water quality and fish stocks. The site has already reportedly expanded almost to the edge of a nearby village, although the local communities say they have not been consulted as they obliged to be under national laws and international standards.

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In Brazil, Water Is Power

Jack Levine – The Huffington Post, 3/23/2015

Of the many stories I heard about the drought while I was in Brazil earlier this month, one stands out: a colleague was riding the elevator in her building and saw a note from a concerned neighbor. “Dear neighbors,” the note read, “As you know we are in a severe crisis. Everyone must do their part to conserve water. That is why I have decided to only wash my car once per month. I hope everyone else can make a similar sacrifice.”

I had just spent five days in Sao Paulo, visiting electric utility executives to imagine how software technology could better engage their consumers toward addressing the deepening crisis. Twenty million people live in Sao Paulo, which is suffering its worst drought the metropolis has seen in nearly a century. A couple of weeks earlier, during Carnival, some towns in the region had canceled street parades for fear there may not be enough water to clean the streets or cool down the crowds. Officials from Sao Paulo’s water utility, Sabesp, had already begun rationing water.

The last time Brazil faced a water crisis of this magnitude, a small private utility – the Sao Paulo Railway and Light Company – was at work constructing the foundation of a modern infrastructure to supply water and power. Today, Brazil’s system of reservoirs and dams provide not just drinking water; they supply more than three-quarters of its electricity generating capacity. So as the Cantareira’s stores fluctuated like a dollar stock – dipping to just five percent of capacity in early February  – Brazil’s utilities braced for an energy crisis.

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Politics in Brazil: Awkward allies

The Economist (print edition), 2/7/2015

The new Congress was always going to be awkward for Brazil’s president. Having won re-election last October with the slimmest of majorities, Dilma Rousseff has a weak mandate. She faces power cuts, water shortages and a probable recession. She must curb the growing fiscal deficit to maintain Brazil’s prized investment-grade credit rating.

On top of all this she must contend with a far-reaching corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Its embattled boss, Maria das Graças Foster, an ally of the president, has resigned along with five other executives.

Ms Rousseff has now been given a first taste of just how obstructive Congress is likely to be. On February 1st, against her wishes, the lower house elected Eduardo Cunha of the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) to be its Speaker.

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Brazil’s worst drought in history prompts protests and blackouts

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 1/23/2015

The taps have run dry and the lights have gone out across swathes of Brazil this week as the worst drought in history spreads from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and beyond.

More than four million people have been affected by rationing and rolling power cuts as this tropical nation discovers it can no longer rely on once abundant water supplies in a period of rising temperatures and diminishing rainfall.

The political and economic fallout for the world’s seventh biggest economy is increasingly apparent. Protesters in dry neighbourhoods have taken to the streets, coffee crops have been hit, businesses have been forced to close and peddle-boat operators have had to cease operations because lakes have dried up.

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Dilma’s power problem

Keith Johnson – Foreign Policy, 2/19/2014

Brazil, the old joke goes, is the country of the future — and always will be. Unfortunately, when it comes to fulfilling the promise of the country’s rich energy resources, the joke rings only too true.

Brazil’s transformation into an energy powerhouse, seemingly so close just a few years ago, has been hobbled by politics. The country’s ability to take advantage of massive offshore oil resources is increasingly questioned, its once-vaunted biofuels industry is reeling, and there are even concerns this year about keeping the lights on and power companies solvent.

There are plenty of things to blame for the hiccups, starting with a severe drought that has hamstrung Brazil’s ability to generate electricity from hydroelectric power, which in turn as led to a spike in fuel imports to run other power plants.

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Bow, arrow, facebook: Brazilian tribes fight for their land

Jens Glusing – Spiegel Online, 08/22/2013

When the helicopter appears above the tops of the mango trees, Alberto, a headman with the Terena tribe, raises his spear into the air, shouts a war cry and calls his men together. About 200 members of the tribe congregate on a meadow. Some shoot arrows at the helicopter, while others swing clubs and cock catapults. Many are wearing headdresses and war paint. “This land belongs to us!” the chief shouts. The helicopter rattles away into the distance.

The police helicopters fly across Fazenda Buriti, a large cattle range in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, two or three times a day. Indigenous people armed with clubs are guarding the entrance of the ranch, which they have occupied for the last three months.

Fazenda Buriti is one of 62 farms in the state that the indigenous people have overrun, part of their revolt against the government from the Amazon region to the southern Pampas area. They are fighting for their land, protecting the borders of their reservations, resisting the construction of hydroelectric power plants in their regions and protesting against the advance of the agricultural industry, which is destroying their homeland.

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Rousseff roils Amazon as Brazil hydropower makes people homeless

Michael Smith – Businessweek, 04/11/2012

At the construction site of the Santo Antonio Dam in the western Amazon, towering cranes and turbines dwarf thousands of workers on the ground. Photographer: Andre Vieira/Bloomberg Markets via Bloomberg

Jose Carlos Arara puts a tarnished 38-caliber revolver into his waistband. It’s a sweltering, mid- November morning in the Brazilian Amazon rain forest, and the 31-year-old Indian chief walks through the jungle to check on his tribe’s yuca crop.

Assassins are hunting Arara, police say, because he opposes plans to build the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam across the Xingu River, 2,300 kilometers north of Sao Paulo. The Xingu flows halfway across the country from Brazil’s western grain belt to the heart of the Amazon, and the 116 members of his tribe, the Araras, depend on the river for fishing, transport and drinking water.

Two armed policemen escort Arara whenever he leaves the 25,000-hectare (62,000-acre) Xingu Big Bend Arara Indian Reservation, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its May issue. The bodyguards don’t protect Arara inside the reservation, so he carries a gun.

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