According to our partner the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), approximately 10,000 families in the city of Altamira in Brazil will be directly affected by the flooding and subsequent lake created from the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam. Meanwhile Norte Energia, the company responsible for this mega-project, has only built 4,100 poorly-constructed houses for the displaced without any other infrastructure like schools, medical facilities, and public transportation for the displaced communities. These are only a few of the reasons is why hundreds of people came together on March 11 to protest against the Belo Monte dam. Below are some of their stories with accompanying photos taken by Joka Madruga for the Water is Life project by Terra Sem Males.
José Elio da Silva
The populations in the cities of Brasil Novo and Vitória have grown with the influx of workers for the Belo Monte dam, and so have the rents. Eighty-two year-old Jóse was forced from his home due to the skyrocketing rents. « We had no place to live and we had to move, » says Jóse. Jóse is one of 100 families that organized to create an urban encampment on abandoned land called Novo Horizonte, where he now lives.
City Councilman Artur talks about the community of Jatobá – a community created to resettle residents affected by the Belo Monte dam that lacks the necessary infrastructure to live. « We are very sad to see this situation. We have made reports and sent them to the Federal Public Ministry and we have notified Norte Energia about the poor construction of the houses and lack of public policies. We do not have schools, kindergartens, the health clinic doesn’t work as it used to and the public transportation doesn’t run at 100%, » says João.
Luzia Silva da Costa
Luzia lives in Ilha da Fazenda and is extremely worried about the future of her community. « The situation is difficult for us. The river is going to dry up [as it is diverted from its natural course] and we don’t have conditions to stay here during the drought. We live from the river, it’s our life. We can’t live without water and that is why we are demanding our rights, » says Luzia.
Pedro Soares de Aragão
As resident of Ilha da Fazenda for more than 22 years and as a fisherman, Pedro has a strong love of the Xingu River. He explains what Norte Energia’s negligence means to his community. « The Xingu River, for me, is a richness where I make my everyday living. And the company [Norte Energia] does not give assistance for us [communities living below the dam site], » says Pedro.
Raimunda Fonseca Teixeira & Raimundo Santos da Costa
Raimunda and Raimundo are a married couple that make their livelihoods from fishing and farming in Vitória do Xingu. As more and more people are displaced, housing has become a hot commodity and therefore rents have gone through the roof. « Before the rent was 50 to 100 Reais, today it varies between 400, 700 and 1,000 Reais. Belo Monte has brought only difficulties for us. We can’t fish anymore there. The Xingu River is our richness, we were born by the big Xingu, » says the couple.
Elisvaldo Crispim Gomes
Elisvaldo, a resident of the Asurini community in Altamira, feels intimidated and that his rights have been violated by the Belo Monte dam and Norte Energia. The Xingu River is central to his survival. « We don’t know how the Xingu is going to be after the lake [that will be created upon completion of the Belo Monte dam]. What we do know is that it is going to be dammed and polluted. The woods will not be removed from here. We don’t know what negative impacts might occur like pests, mosquitoes, or other venomous insects [from the standing water]. Another problem is potable water for human consumption because the lake will flood the springs we currently use, » says Elisvaldo.
The « Wagoners »
In Altamira there are approximately 130 « wagoners » – people who transport items like sand, bricks, fish, wood and other products vital to the river communities using wagons and set up stands along the river. These vendors are the cheapest in the city and at the heart of river communities’ economies. The wagoners are losing their stands and transporting items via carts has become dangerous due to the increase car traffic from the Belo Monte project. Once the dam is completed, their stands will literally be underwater and most of their clientele will be displaced and forced to move elsewhere. « Belo Monte does not recognize us as ‘affected’, » says wagoner Gilson de Jesus, pictured above in the black t-shirt.