March 14 was International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life. The International Movement Against Dams reports that there are 800,000 dams around the world which have caused the dislocation of some 80 million people.
In Brazil, according to the organization, since the 1970s a total of one million people have been displaced by dam construction.
International Day of Action Against Dams was commemorated in Brazil with demonstrations by representatives of social movements and environmental activists in the state of Rondônia.
The demonstrators protested the construction of two hydroelectric power plants on the Rio Madeira (the plants are known as Jirau and Santo Antônio).
The protests were led by an umbrella group known as the Forum for Debates on Rondônia Energy which congregates, among others, an energy research group at the local federal university (Grupo de Pesquisa em Energia Renovável e Sustentável da Universidade Federal de Rondônia) (Unir), the Indian Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário) (Cimi) and the Land Pastoral Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra) (CPT) [which are both linked to the Catholic church], an environmental NGO "Canindé," an Amazon region work group (Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico) (GTA), a rubber tapper union (Organização dos Seringueiros de Rondônia) (OSR), the NGO Rio Terra and the Victims of Dams Movement (Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens) (MAB).
The Forum has drawn up a list of problems the construction of the two power plants will cause. Among them: loss of areas of historical interest, the need to resettle 2,000 riverside inhabitants who do not have land deeds and will face burdensome difficulties in obtaining any indemnity besides losing their livelihood (they are fishermen), along with the negative impact on the Madeira River, its ecology and the fauna and flora in the region.
However, on the other hand, the Madeira River project is an important element in the Brazilian government’s development plans. With the construction of the two power plants the river will be navigable, making it possible to harvest soy grown in the Central-West region of Brazil and then transport it by river and highways across western Brazil and through Bolivia and Peru to the Pacific Ocean for export to Asia.