For the Arara and tens of thousands of other indigenous people of the area, the construction of Belo Monte dam is an threat. Rising water is displacing them from ancestral lands, covering vast areas of forest, taking away sources of food, irrevocably submerging a fundamental part of their indigenous cultural and spiritual identity. With displacement come further uncertainties and risks such as human trafficking. And while their lives are being drastically impacted, the tribes have never been properly consulted, nor gave their free prior informed consent to the development that is uprooting them.
This story repeats itself across the Amazon region, with uncountable cases of illegal infringement on indigenous lands and continuous indigenous rights violations. The recent presidential elections in Brazil mean swathes of protected tribal territories are under further threat of being opened up for even more exploitation by commercial agriculture and mining. The previously shelved plans for other dams across the Amazon basin are likely being revived.
Yet there exists a vast network of indigenous resistance built on a legacy of a generations-long struggle against the environmental destruction and colonisation, supported by a global solidarity coalition with organisations such as Amazon Frontlines, Witness, Greenpeace and Amazon Watch standing up for indigenous rights and providing support, advocacy, legal aid and amplifying their frontline voices.
The Belo Monte dam, however massive, is just a small piece in the larger story of development, destruction and displacement playing out across the Amazon basin. But this is also a global story, affecting all of us. Amazon deforestation releases huge amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere majorly contributing to global emissions, meaning that stopping the destruction of the Amazon forest is critical to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The massive infrastructure projects enabling deforestation - dams, roads, pipelines - would not be possible without the financial backing brought in by large international banks and corporations. The story of Belo Monte dam demonstrates the importance of Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) investing principles for investors and companies around the world in order to protect these populations and critical, global resources.