Indigenous peoples and riverside people from the Xingu River Basin gathered in Brasília to discuss the stage of development of the main infrastructure works projected for the region and their impacts on the Xingu Socio-Environmental Diversity Corridor.
Promoted by Xingu+ Network — articulation of 32 civil society organizations that operate in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará —, the meeting, which took place on April 20 and 21, sought to respond to an urgent need of the current moment: to align information and outline joint strategies to deal with the expected impacts.
Since the 2022 presidential campaign, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has publicly stated his intention to resume massive investments in infrastructure works in his 3rd term, along the lines of the Growth Acceleration Plan (PAC) of previous terms.
With a delayed launch, the “New PAC”, as it has been called by the press, should be announced by the end of June 2023. In the list of projects targeted by the new government, projects such as the EF-170 (“Ferrogão”) and the paving of the BR-242/MT.
Designed to connect the production of grains such as soy and corn in Mato Grosso to the port complex in Itaituba (PA), Ferrogrão should consolidate the Tapajós-Xingu Logistics Corridor — complex made up of infrastructure works and logistics equipment. And, with that, expanding the impacts on the interfluve region between the Xingu and Tapajós basins, which is already experiencing the consequences of works carried out in past decades, such as the BR-163 (see below).
From Mato Grosso, indigenous leaders from the Xingu Indigenous Territory and the Capoto Jarina Indigenous Land shared their concerns with the advance of agricultural monoculture production on traditional territories and close to Indigenous Lands in Mato Grosso.
Synergistic and Cumulative Impacts of the Tapajós-Xingu Logistics CorridorA large part of Ferrogrão's impacts on indigenous territories is related to the combination and accumulation of socio-environmental impacts and liabilities from other infrastructure projects or activities that already take place in the region.
Often, the impacts of two works, when added together, originate another impact, which is technically called a “synergistic” impact. This is what could happen with the construction of Ferrogrão and other works on the Tapajós-Xingu Logistic Corridor, such as the BR-163, whose asphalting already has consequences in the region. The construction of Ferrogrão should further drive deforestation in the southwest of Pará, as the region tends to experience a population boom of workers attracted by the construction of the railroad and the works on the highway that are already underway.
The next step is that, once the work is finished, some of these people seek opportunities in the illicit land market and in illegal activities that cause illegal deforestation.
Cumulative impacts occur when two or more works cause the same effect in the region, enhancing the same type of adverse impact on the territories. This process can also be observed with Ferrogrão together with other works, such as the paving of the MT-322, which should reduce logistics costs in Mato Grosso and thereby further encourage the expansion of grain production in the north of the state.
Participants at the meeting in Brasilia also shared experiences in the fight for compliance with the right to free, prior and informed consultation in the infrastructure investment cycle, as well as strategies for independent monitoring of the socio-environmental impacts of major works.
Regarding the consultation, emphasis was given to the ongoing process of Prior Consultation on the BR 242 and the Midwest Integration Railroad (FICO 2) for the peoples of the Xingu Indigenous Territory, agreed with the federal government in 2019 based on the actions of the Xingu Indigenous Land Association (ATIX), member of the Xingu+ Network.
Indigenous and riverside people from the Independent Environmental and Territorial Monitoring of Volta Grande do Xingu (MATI-VGX) shared the challenges faced in recognizing the information on impacts produced by impacted persons and independent specialists in the context of renewing the operating license of the Belo Monte HPP (see below)
“The new government makes an effort to think about measures that will boost the country's economy. This makes sense, however, it cannot overrule the protection of the environment and the reduction of deforestation, commitments assumed by Lula during the campaign and reinforced in a series of announcements made on Monday (5/6) on Environment Day with the launch of the PPCDAm”, says Biviany Rojas, ISA advisor.
The Xingu Basin is, in this sense, a strategic region to stop the advance of destruction in the Amazon, at the same time that it is located in a central region for the production of Brazilian agribusiness.
"To defend this part of the Amazon, it is necessary that the works planned for the region do not increase the pressures that already affect the forest and the territories of indigenous and traditional peoples. The solution necessarily involves the recognition of the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities, as well as respect for their right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent," says Rojas.
During the event, participants also discussed the impacts of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant, in the Middle Xingu region, in Pará. The Plant's Operating License has expired and is undergoing a renewal process with Ibama.
The main dispute is over the amount of water that Belo Monte should release to the Xingu River, in the stretch below the dam, called the “reduced flow stretch”. The region is known as Volta Grande do Xingu.
The river in this region is dying. As a result, fish and other species are dying or failing to reproduce, compromising the food and income of indigenous peoples and riverside dwellers who have always lived off fishing.
In 2022, indigenous peoples, riverside communities and researchers from public universities developed a proposal for water flow in the region, called the “Piracemas Hydrogram”. If Belo Monte carries out the amounts of water foreseen in that proposal in the times indicated by the researchers, aquatic reproduction will take place again in the Xingu. Piracema is the name of the fish reproduction areas in the river.
Ibama has not yet defined its response, but in April, the body's president, Rodrigo Agostinho, expressed his commitment to maintaining life in Volta Grande do Xingu. “The guarantee I can give is that with this Consensus Hydrogram you forget about the license. Our priority is life in the Xingu,” he said at the time.