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News from Brazil
22 January 2000
Here's a "dog bites man" story of yet more gross corruption from Brazil, taken verbatim with my comments in brackets  from SEJUP News from Brazil:
URGENT ACTION APPEAL
- More developments in the ongoing saga of the damming of the River Ribeira de Iguape [This is the river running north of the road between Eldorado and the turnoff to Morro do Diablo State Park in southeast São Paulo State near the border with Paraná. The area has been heavily impacted by an abundance of squatters, who recently have cleared extremely steep slopes and the heart of the the Park, without interference from the authorities. There are excellent and inexpensive cabins and a good restaurant at Caverna do Diablo (Devil's Cave), a major tourist attraction during the afternoon, but you will have to bushwhack out the forest trail over the hill beyond the squatter's camp upstream from the cabins for the best birding. Saw-billed Hermit, Ramphodon naevius, is common near the cabins. Morning parrot flights were very poor, a reflection of the dense human population in the area. For any realistic chance at finding Triclaria here you probably would have to go well beyond the squatter camp.
Morro do Diablo State Park is the last stronghold of the critically endangered Black Lion-Tamarin, Leontopithecus chrysophygus. Prime Lion-Tamarin habitat was destroyed in the early 1980s when the the Energy Company of São Paulo (CESP) built three dams near the park. Lion-Tamarins from the area to be flooded were trapped and taken into captivity.]
During recent years we have carried numerous reports of opposition to the construction of four hydo-electric dams on the River Ribeira de Iguape on the frontier between the States of Paraná and São Paulo. Local organizations and groups point to the widespread ecological and social damages such projects would provoke. A couple of years ago, a court decision in São Paulo halted the construction of the first of the dams at Tijuco Alto even though the governments of the States of São Paulo and Paraná had authorized its construction.
The area in question is the Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica) whose present day distribution represents a mere 8% of the area originally covered by this forest in Brazil. Environmentalists in Brazil feel that this authorization will open the door for the state electricity company to construct a further three dams already planned and so cause more widespread environmental and social damage.
With the construction of the dam at Tijuco Alto and the likely construction of a further three at Itaoca, Funil and Batatal the foreseen environmental and social damages are as follows:
- The flooding of 11000 hectares of the best agricultural land in the region of which approximately 2500 hectares are of Atlantic Rainforest.
- The flooding of almost 100 important pre-colonial archaeological sites not yet studied or excavated.
- The expulsion of at least 4000 families from the area to be flooded.
- The extermination of 18 quilombos (historical Afro-Brazilian communities of descendants of escaped slaves).
- 11 caves and historical monuments from early colonial times will be submerged by the flood-waters.
- Widespread damage to the Iguape-Cananéia estuary will be caused by the construction of the dams. Internationally this estuary is considered to be a very important and unique area environmentally and approximately 8000 families make their livelihood from fishing there.
There have been new developments on the story. Recently, the public promoter ordered IBAMA (the national environmental protection agency who now has been given the decision to allow or not the building of the dam belonging to wealthy businessman Antônio Ermírio de Morães) to do a survey not only of the surrounding area of the dam but of the whole valley area.
IBAMA hired three environmental technicians from the University of São Paulo to analyze and evaluate the area in question. [Attention U.S. citizens -- your tax dollars at work, via the World Bank.] The three technicians never made contact with the local people involved. A member of the community against the flooding of the valley talked with the technicians, and then became suspicious. The public promoter was informed and had an interview with the technicians. The public promoter found appalling inconsistencies. The three were able to explain very little of what they had reported. The public promoter requested a copy of the contract that IBAMA made with the technicians only to discover that the three are actually employees of the very person promoting the dam project, Antônio Ermírio de Morães! [A Brazilian "double dip."] On further investigation it was revealed that the three do not belong to the University of São Paulo, but only have offices in university buildings.
The press are afraid of Antônio Ermírio de Morães and refused to publish the story. [They must wonder whether their own bodyguards are also double dipping.] The governor of São Paulo has done nothing. [Not counting Swiss bank deposits.] Sejup is still awaiting more details on the story, but those involved have asked that letters of protest be sent to the address below. If more names and places of where to send protest letters come to us, then we will pass them on to you.
WE WANT TO EMPHASIZE HOW EFFECTIVE INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE HAS BEEN IN THIS CASE. ANTÔNIO ERMÍRIO DE MORÃES HAS BEEN TRYING TO DAM THE AREA FOR SEVERAL YEARS WITH NO SUCCESS, DUE IN PART TO YOUR RESPONSES!