Jul 05, 2018

Brazil: Indigenous Community Threatened by Construction of Waterway in Traditional Land

The National Department of Transport Infrastructure published a report declaring the viability of constructing a waterway in the traditional territory of the Munduruku indigenous community, in the state of Pará. The members of the community have not been previously consulted about this project which will affect their traditional livelihood. This violation of indigenous rights happens in a broader context of political setbacks in Brazil under the Temer administration. The UNPO condemns the systematic violations of indigenous rights in Brazil and urges the Brazilian State to comply with its obligation to consult with indigenous communities prior to any project in their traditional land, as enshrined in the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169.

The article below was published by Telesur:

“How will we be able to cross the river?” asked Munduruk member Alessandra. “How will we go to the homes of our family members?"

The Pariri Indigenous Association, linked to the midway-Tapajos Munduruku community in the Brazilian state of Para, has denounced that the National Department of Transport Infrastructure, or DNIT, has released a report explaining the viability of constructing waterway in their traditional homeland without having previously consulted the group.

The report, titled Study of the Technical, Economic and Environmental Viability of the Teles Pires-Tapajos Waterway, was presented in the cities of Cuiaba on June 15 and Santarem on June 26, said Alessandra Munduruku.

“How will we be able to cross the river?” asked Munduruku. “How will we go to the homes of our family members? We are accustomed to go by canoe, rabeta (a type of local boat) to the homes of our family members. We don't have cars and the only means of transportation that we have is the canoe. That's why we're involved in this struggle to save our river.”

The waterway is slated to serve the agribusiness sector. However, the Munduruku association insists that the waterway study is invalid due to the fact that the local Indigenous community was not previously consulted about the project, a procedure that is guaranteed by the 169 Convention of the International Labour Organization.

“In the case of the Teles Pires (waterway), I don't believe it will get underway now...but for this to happen they need to, firstly, all of the rights that have been consolidated in the Constitution and other laws such as the 169 Convention, which has been recognized by Brazil,” said Luiz Claudio Britto, a historian and member of the Xingu Always Lives movement.

He pointed out, however, that the rights of Indigenous communities and their ancestral lands are already being violated.

Last year, roughly 200 members of the Munduruku occupied the construction site of Sao Manoel Hydroelectric Power Plant since Sunday, with one of their main grievances being that the company hold consultations with the group before construction resumes.

Photo Courtesy of International Rivers @Flickr