Activists today peacefully protested against a planned mega dam project in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Austrian company Andritz, one of the global leaders in technology for hydroelectric dams. The São Luiz do Tapajós-dam would be built in the Tapajós River, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
In the early morning, 50 Greenpeace activists from Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria and France constructed a 10-meter replica dam in front of the doors of the Congress Graz building in Austria where the AGM is taking place. Together with representatives of the Indigenous Peoples – the Munduruku – they greeted the arriving shareholders and passers-by with yellow banners which read, “Andritz, hands off the Amazon!” The Austrian company has indicated interest in participating in the mega dam in Brazil, a project that would have catastrophic consequences for the Munduruku people and delicate ecosystems of the region.
Lukas Meus, Amazon spokesperson for Greenpeace Austria, said:
“Mega dams in sensitive ecosystems like the Amazon can be environmentally and socially destructive. If Andritz decides to supply turbines and generators to the São Luiz do Tapajós-dam they will become partly responsible for the devastating impacts this mammoth project will inflict upon the people and ecosystems of the fragile Amazon rainforest.”
The more than seven kilometres broad São Luiz do Tapajós-dam would involve a 729 square kilometre reservoir – an area roughly double the size of Vienna, Austria´s capital. To make way for the dam, huge areas of rainforest would need to be logged and many lakes and islands destroyed. The diverse animal population of the Tapajós Valley – including jaguars, river dolphins, endangered Terekay turtles and hundreds of species of fish and birds – would fall by the wayside. Many of these issues were not even factored-in to the environmental impact assessment.
The construction of the mega dam would have similarly catastrophic consequences for the region’s largest indigenous population, the Munduruku. The Tapajós River is their lifeline. Building the dam would involve flooding part of their homelands and destroying both their fishing grounds and their sanctuaries.
Arnaldo Kabá, spokesperson for the Munduruku, said:
“We have come to Austria to demand from Andritz that they respect our human rights. Neither Andritz nor any other company must take part in projects that might destroy our land.”
This is not the first time that Andritz has been criticized for their involvement in environmentally-destructive projects. The Belo-Monte mega dam, currently the subject of wide-ranging corruption investigations in Brazil, is just one of these projects. This dam has caused the forced relocation of between 20,000 and 40,000 people. In the case of the controversial Ilisu dam in Turkey, Andritz even took over the contracts of other companies – after States, banks and companies withdrew from the project due to the catastrophic environmental, cultural and social consequences.
“These irresponsible projects must stop! Andritz must not participate in the São Luiz do Tapajós dam and should publicly distance themselves from the project,” added Meus.