Thousands of supporters turned out to celebrate Dom Luiz’s birthday with him yesterday, as he continues his hunger strike against the re-routing of the São Francisco River.
Here’s an AP story on the demonstrations. It’s good that the reporter focuses on the environmental damage that re-routing the river will cause (which will likely include increased deforestation, sedimentation and habitat loss for wildlife and fisheries stock) but it’s disappointing that he takes at face value the government’s claims that 18 million people will benefit from the project.
Independent experts who have analyzed the plan suggest that the number who actually receive water from the project will be much smaller than that, and experience with similar projects around the world suggest that the long term consequences of mega-projects like this can be catastrophic not only for the environment in some abstract sense, but for the livelihoods and lives of the people who live in the area. Not exactly what I would call a benefit.
(For a representative sample, try doing a google search of “aral sea health” to see what the long-term effects of large scale water redistribution projects for irrigation look like.)
One thing that is heartening about the struggle against the São Francisco re-distribution project is that environmental activists are working together with rural unions and other community groups (including our partners, the MST and Pólo Sindical) to protect their rights to control the use of their water and land.