Amazon Press Release

26 November 2010

Media Contacts:
Christian Poirier, 011-55-93 8112 9396, christian@amazonwatch.org
Karina Luna, 011-55-93 8112 9344, comunicacaoamazonwatch@gmail.com

March and Human Banner at today’s Pan Amazon Fórum send global reminder that “The Rivers of the Amazon are Alive”

700 people, many threatened by dams and deforestation, form a human banner on Tapajós River in Santarém to bring attention to the threat of large dams in the Amazon.

Santarém, Para, Brazil- Over 700 people gathered on the banks of the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon, on Friday, to form a giant human banner to send a message to the politicians and corporations threatening their homeland: "The Rivers are Alive."

The event joined more than a dozen public art pieces taking place around the world this week as part of 350 EARTH, a planetary art show to bring awareness to the climate crisis as  global decision-makers resume climate talks at the UN Climate Meetings in Cancun, México next week. 

The Tapajós public art event was led participants in the V Pan Amazon Forum (November 25-29, 2010) taking place in Santarem, Para, the site of a proposed mega dam. Over 700 participants of the Forum, including students and local community members many of whom are threatened by dams and deforestation, joined Amazon Watch  and John Quigley/Spectral Q to create the human banner.

The banner's image is of Yara, the mythical mermaid who is the protector of the Amazon, and the message is “Rios Vivos” or “The Rivers are Alive”. This action was organized in opposition to the Brazilian Government's plans to construct more than 60 hydroelectric dams on important tributaries including the Tapajós and the Xingu, a plan which would be disastrous for forests, communities and the global climate.

Prior to forming the human banner, students gathered petition signatures against the proposed construction of the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River to support the Xingu Forever Alive Movement (www.xinguvivo.org.br).  Then, they marched through the streets of Santarém in peaceful protest against the proposed construction of dams throughout the Amazon.  They held signs that read, “Rivers for Life for the People of the Amazon”, “The Youth Do Not support Dams in the Amazon”, “No to Large-Dams! Yes to Alternative Energy!”, “We want development, but not any kind of development”.

“Economic development needs to be sustainable.  Are so many dams actually necessary? Why doesn’t the government invest all the billions dedicated to dams into education instead? If Brazil wants to grow, it’s necessary that we remember that developed countries got to where they are at because they invested in education,” said Tiago dos Anjos, a 20 year-old student and founder of the Student Union called UGEL.

“The Rivers are Alive is a global message brought by the youth of Santarém that understand the need to protect the rivers of the Amazon and support cleaner forms of energy production that are much less destructive than large-dams,” said Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch’s Brazil Campaigner from Santarém.

If built, the Belo Monte Dam will be the third largest in the world, after the Three Gorges dam in China and the Itaipu dam on the Brazil/Paraguay border. The $17 billion project would divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile (100km) stretch; its reservoirs would flood more than 100,000 acres of rainforest and local settlements, displace more than 40,000 Indigenous and local people, thousands from the city of Altamira where up to a third will be flooded.

Its reservoirs will also generate high amounts of methane– a greenhouse gas 25-40 times more potent than carbon dioxide. According to Dr. Philip Fearnside, a research professor at the Department of Ecology at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA), in Manaus, Brazil, huge areas of forest are flooded when reservoirs are built. The trees and other plant material decay at the bottom of the reservoir trapping methane until it is released by turbines.

Large dams, such as the Belo Monte or the Tapajós, can create as much greenhouse gas emissions as a coal-fired power plant of the same generating capacity. Large dams pose a major threat to the integrity of the Amazon's forests, driving the expansion of massive mining operations and spurring waves of new settlers into protected areas and Indigenous territories.

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For more information on the Belo Monte Dam visit:

http://www.amazonwatch.org

http://www.messagefrompandora.org

http://xinguvivo.org.br