Amazon Tribes March Against World’s 3rd-Largest Dam

About 200 Amazon Indians wearing traditional body paint and carrying spears are marching on Brazil’s capital to protest the $11 billion Belo Monte power dam project in the rainforest, set to be the world’s third biggest when completed.

Painted red and black, the Indians chanted slogans in front of Congress and the presidential palace in Brasilia, where they handed a 500,000-signature petition to President Dilma Rousseff. They also plan to protest the project in the Xingu River area at the Energy Ministry.

“We want to keep the Xingu River just the way it is today,” said Cacique Takmare, who lives with his wife, six sons and 23 grandsons in the area. “All my family lives there, and there’s no other better place to live.”

Belo Monte, criticized by “Avatar” director James Cameron last year because of its environmental damage, will flood 516 square kilometers (199 square miles) of rainforest and require relocation of about 1,000 Indians. The dam is part of the government’s plan to boost energy supplies as Latin America’s biggest economy grows at the fastest pace in two decades.

“If we can’t count on the hydroelectric dams, we will need thermoelectric plants that pollute a lot more,” Energy Minister Edison Lobao told reporters in Brasilia today.

A group led by state-owned Cia. Hidro Electrica do Sao Francisco, a unit of state-run Centrais Electricas Brasileiras, won the rights to build and operate the dam last year. The group already has a license to set up the construction site and is awaiting final environmental permission.

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