Renowned Amazonian tribal Chief Raoni Meturktire and his nephew Chief Megaron Txucarramãe appeared at a press conference hosted by the Rainforest Foundation UK, RFUK, on Monday at the Frontline Club, London with Bianca Jagger being a keynote speaker.
The tribal leaders, from the Kayapó tribe in the Brazilian rainforest, came to the UK to highlight the worsening environmental situation and the threats to their people’s rights for example from proposed hydro-electric dams, large scale agribusiness, logging, illegal mining and the production of agricultural commodities which have serious ramifications for their indigenous peoples.
The Chiefs last visited the UK 25 years ago when a serious of hydro-electric dams were proposed on the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon and the construction of these dams would have had devastating consequences for their people, who were not adequately consulted on the dams.
The RFUK was founded in 1989 after Sting and his wife Trudie Styler witnessed the plight of the Kayapó people and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. This ignited the Rainforest Foundation’s first campaign which resulted in the protection of an area known as the Menkragnoti Reserve and almost five million hectares (12.5 million acres).
Currently, there are proposals for up to 60 large-scale hydro-electric dams and 300 ‘small electric centres’ in the Amazon. Planning for the construction of at least 23 of these large dams (six of which are intended for the Xingu River) is already underway for example the mega Belo Monte Dam. These dams will inundate an area of approximately 6,470sq km of one of the world’s richest and bio-diverse rainforests.
At the press conference, Bianca Jagger said: “Belo Monte will be more than a dam; it’s a megadam, the third largest in the world, which will displace 20,000 people and change the Amazon basin forever. It is a travesty of human rights and an environmental crime”.
Deforestation in the last year has risen by 28% following subsequent years of decline, in Brazil alone the area of a football pitch (approximately 0.5 hectares) is cut down every minute resulting in a loss of 232,900 hectares of Amazonian rainforest every year.
Chief Megaron stated that “We should be finding a solution together to preserve the forest for the future of our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. What’s going to happen when it’s all gone, when it’s all destroyed and there’s nothing left?”