Hydroelectric power plants can flood national park in the Amazon Region | WWF Brasil

Hydroelectric power plants can flood national park in the Amazon Region

17 junho 2014    
Cachoeira do Salto Augusto: beleza rara na Amazônia
© Zig KOCH
Brasília (DF) –The National Energy Policy Council (CNPE, in portuguese) – is meeting in Brasília, June 24, when it may declare as “public utility” a part of the Juruena National Park, located on the border between the states of Mato Grosso and Amazonas. With nearly 2 million hectares, Juruena is the fourth largest national park in the country. It represents 2.5% of the area covered by the federal protected areas in the Legal Amazon and 5.3% of the area in national parks areas in the region. The park is part of ARPA (Amazon Region Protected Areas), which funded part of the actions for its implementation.

The Declaration of Public Utility (DUP, in Portuguese) is the first step towards a reduction of the protected area for the construction of the hydroelectric plants of São Simão Alto and Salto Augusto Baixo. They are part of a series of seven dams that the government plans to build in the Tapajós Basin, with significant social and environmental impacts.

In order to raise awareness of the society regarding these threats to the Juruena National Park and the Tapajós Basin, WWF-Brazil has launched this month, the SOS Juruena Campaign. The initiative calls for the support of society to pressure the government and block the construction of dams within the Juruena National Park, therefore ensuring that this protected area remains intact.

Once built, the reservoirs of the two plants will flood more than 40,000 hectares in the Juruena National Park, in the Juruena Igarapés State Park and indigenous territories of “Escondido” and “Apiaká do Pontal”, in Mato Grosso state. In the Amazon, portions of the Sucunduri State Park can be impacted as well as indigenous territories.

“This mosaic of protected areas is essential to curb deforestation, unplanned and illegall occupation that expanded aggressively from Mato Grosso towards the Amazon, before the areas were created", recalls Marco Lentini, coordinator of the Amazon Program for WWF-Brazil. According to Lentini, the region is of extreme biological importance for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plant species threatened with extinction. "Brazil has an international commitment to protect these species," says the expert.

Aquatic - According to scholars, the health of aquatic ecosystems in Juruena River - as well as throughout the Amazon - depends on the annual cycles of flooding and drought, which influence the establishment of suitable environments for feeding and reproduction of fish, turtles and dolphins. The damming of Juruena River for the construction of Salto Augusto and São Simão plants will alter river flows and bring about the isolation or even the disappearance of some environments, which will be permanently flooded or not have enough water to be formed.

The area expected to be flooded is also a shelter for several native peoples, including some who live in complete isolation in the forest. “In the case of indigenous people and traditional communities”, says Lentini, “any action that might affect them must be preceded by Free, Prior and Informed Consultation, as determined by the Convention Nr. 169 of the International Labor Organization - ILO, signed by Brazil since 2004, and the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UN 2006.”

In the dark - Chaired by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the CNPE assists the Presidency of the Republic in the formulation of policies and guidelines for energy planning for the whole country. Created in 1997, the Council provides for the participation of civil society and academia since 2006. However, these vacancies have not been filled to the moment.

Seeking to participate in decisions of the CNPE, a group of civil society organizations submitted a letter to the Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobão, last year, asking for clarification about the lack of civil representation on the board. The document pointed out the lack of transparency of the body, whose agendas are not published in advance and the minutes are known only months after each meeting.

“There has been no response and the board decisions continue to be taken without the debate with the society”, said Jean Timmers, director of Public Polices at WWF-Brazil.

For Timmers, “it is unacceptable that protected areas created through exhaustive social and environmental studies, political agreements between governments and productive sectors, essential for the maintenance of ecosystem services and the fulfillment of international commitments for the conservation of biodiversity, might have their integrity threatened by unilateral decisions of exclusively governmental councils. He advocates for the opening of the discussion on the Brazilian energy policy for the entire society, supported by a qualified, transparent and democratic debate.”

According to the director, “sustainability requires transparency and broad social participation, ensuring balance between economic, social and environmental factors in the formulation of public policies, decision-making and actions that affect the whole or part of the Brazilian territory”.

Green Alert - The construction of hydroelectric plants without the assessment of existing alternatives and extensive debate with the society tend to increase deforestation, social and environmental degradation, river flooding and unnecessary damming. In largely preserved regions of the Amazon, such as the Tapajós Basin, these effects are multiplied. In this basin only, the government intends to introduce at least seven hydroelectric plants. The announcement is already attracting high impact activities for the region, such as illegal logging and mining.

Get to know the WWF-Brazil campaign at: wwf.org.br/sosjuruena.

AboutWWF-Brazil: It is a Brazilian non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of nature with the objective of harmonizing human activity with biodiversity conservation and promoting the rational use of natural resources for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations. WWF-Brazil was created in 1996 and its office is located in Brasília. It develops projects throughout the whole country and it is part of the International WWF Organization, the largest independent environment conservation network, active in more than 100 countries. It is supported by over five million people, including associates and volunteers.

Press contact:
Frederico Brandão, tel.: +55-61-3364-7433 – fredericobrandao@wwf.org.br

Cachoeira do Salto Augusto: beleza rara na Amazônia
© Zig KOCH Enlarge
A grande variedade de borboletas impressiona os visitantes do Parque Nacional Juruena
© Zig KOCH Enlarge
Voo da arara-canindé no Parque Nacional do Juruena.
© Zig Koch / WWF Enlarge