LONDON – The construction of two large dams on the Madeira River in the Brazilian Amazon threatens to destroy the natural environment of several Indian tribes who live without any contact with Western civilization, Survival International said Wednesday.
The Santo Antonio and Jirau dams are near the areas where several isolated peoples live, including the Mujica Nava and the uncontacted Jacareuba/Katawixi Indians, the human rights group said, citing the findings of a recent expedition by the state-run National Indian Foundation, or Funai.
The dams “will create new roads and bring a massive influx of migrants into the area – this will rapidly destroy the Indians’ forest,” Survival International said.
“The migrants will also bring diseases such as flu and measles to which the Indians have little immunity. Any form of contact between isolated tribes and outsiders is extremely dangerous to the health of the Indians and could lead to the death of many, as has frequently happened in the past,” the non-governmental organization said.
Other communities are equally threatened, including the Parintintin, a spokesman for the Indian tribe said.
“Our land is still virgin. We hope that this project will not continue, because it is our children who will suffer. There will not be enough fish, or enough animals for us to hunt,” the Indian spokesman said.
The Jirau dam is being built by GDF Suez, which is partly owned by the French government and whose CEO, Gerard Mestrallet, recently was questioned by a stockholder about the damage the project may cause to indigenous communities.
Mestrallet, according to Survival, told the shareholder that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva supported the project and “if anyone knows what is good for the Brazilian population and at the same time (can) reflect on the preservation of the local Indians, then it is certainly President Lula.”
“The construction of the Santo Antonio and Jirau dams must be suspended. If this does not happen, many Indians will see their lands invaded and natural resources plundered. Uncontacted groups could be decimated or even wiped out. The Brazilian government will be held responsible for such a disaster,” Survival International director Stephen Corry said. EFE