Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Brazil's Dams

 Northern Mato Grosso, where the land is the current source of local incomes and wealth, which is now based in agriculture, livestock farming and mining, after being based on timber, has now discovered the value of its water resources. Its energy use is imposed to the detriment of traditional users, just as the land was concentrated in export monoculture to the detriment of food production. New hydropower stations are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso into a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef.They change in the natural flow of the Teles Pires river.  The river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season. It is reducing fish catches, which native people living in the lower stretch of the basin depend on as their main source of protein. 

“The fish die, as well as the turtles, because the water has gotten dirty from the works upstream.” said 27-year-old Isaac Waru. 

Since the vegetation in the river began to die off after the river was diverted to build the dam, fish catches have shrunk, said Solange Arrolho, a professor of biology at the State University of Mato Grosso in Alta Floresta, where she is head of the Ichthyology Laboratory of the Southern Amazon. The researcher, who said she has been “studying fish for 30” of her 50 years, led a project to monitor fish populations in 2014 in the area of influence of the Colider hydroelectric power station. "These works affect fishing by altering the river banks and the river flow, reducing migration of fish, and cutting down riverbank forests, which feed fish with fruit and insects that “fall from the trees into the water,” said Arrolho . “The fish do not adapt, they migrate,”

Local indigenous people avoid drinking water from the river, even bathing with it, after cases of diarrhea, itchy rashes and eye problems, said the three students who come from three different villages. 

Patxon Metuktire, local coordinator of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government body for the protection of indigenous peoples in Brazil. “The companies believe that our problem is just one of logistics, that it is just a matter of providing trucks and fuel, and they forget that their projects damage the ecosystem that is the basis of our well-being and way of life,” he told IPS.
Julita Burko Duleba, president of the Sinop Colony of Fisherpersons and Region (Z-16), based in the city of Sinop, the capital city of northern Mato Grosso. “Fish catches in the Teles Pires basin have dropped: we used to catch over 200 kilos per week, but now we catch a maximum of 120 kilos and on average only between 30 and 40 kilos,” she said

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