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Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Brazil. (Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research via Flickr)

Indigenous group asks Brazil to stop financing mega-projects

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A group representing Amazon indigenous people urged Brazil’s National Development Bank on Wednesday to stop financing projects that cause environmental damage.

After meeting with bank representatives, leaders of the Ecuador-based group known as the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin said in a statement that they also asked the bank to adopt policies that safeguard the rights of indigenous to ancestral lands.

The group wants a say in decisions involving large scale projects in the Amazon rain forest, COICA president Edwin Vasquez Campos said.

One such project is the 11,000-megawatt Belo Monte dam under construction on the Xingu River in Brazil’s jungle state of Para. The dam would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric energy producer behind China’s Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam, which straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

The government has said Belo Monte will be a source of clean, renewable energy and is fundamental for the economic development of the country. It says the dam was designed to minimize environmental damage, but environmentalists and indigenous groups say it would devastate wildlife and their livelihoods.

“We have never been consulted,” Campos said in the statement. “Megaprojects like hydroelectric dams and highways affect almost 100 percent of indigenous lands.”

COICA represents 390 indigenous groups in Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and French Guiana.

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