Belo Monte Dam Case – Tribunal

International Rights of Nature Tribunal
Lima, Peru ~ December 2014
Judge: Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch

Belo Monte Dam

Slides of presentation: Belo Monte Dam RON_BeloMonte2014

Belo Monte dam structure



The Brazilian government is implementing the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam to provide 11,000 megawatts of power. Belo Monte is considered to be the world’s third largest dam. At this time, the dam project is about 50% completed. The dam’s reservoir will flood 668 square kilometers, has drained and diverted nearly 90 percent of the flow of the Xingu river for 100 kilometers around the “big bend”, affecting all the fauna of the river and causing the displacement of approximately 40,000 indigenous and riverine people. There are 3-4 additional dams planned upstream that would flood a huge area of the Xingu National Park.

Some 22 lawsuits have been brought against the Dam in Brazil, most by the Federal Public Ministry. Several are pending decision by the Supreme Court. While these lawsuits have at times lead to temporary suspensions of project, none of the cases have been ruled on and thus have not provided any remedies. Similarly, the precautionary measures which were granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, were ignored by the Brazilian government who has vowed not to comply with requested measures.

Not only are the rights of nature affected, but also those of indigenous peoples linked to the territories where the project is developed. The right to prior consultation has been disregarded, and worse still, the existence of indigenous peoples ignored. Indigenous peoples have lost their food sovereignty, cannot fish because the fish populations have declined significantly already, and the dam is preventing free migration of important fish species. The people have no clean water; young people are migrating away from their communities. Construction companies have created divisions within the community. Corruption and enforcement processes ignore and violate nature.

Finally, the claim that the hydropower proposed for Brazil falls under the banner of “clean energy” is false. The mega-dams will collectively cause major impact to the rivers and the rainforests as well as the hydrological cycle of the forest. The dam will cause the release of huge quantities of methane, a global warming gas that is 50x more potent that CO2.

The Tribunal accepted the case and provides that a special session be held in Brazil to hear the case.