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Brazil judge blocks Amazon jungle dam construction

A Brazilian judge for the Federal Court of the First Region [official website, in Portuguese] ruled on Thursday that work on a dam [Belo Monte backgrounder] being constructed on the Xingu River in the Amazon jungle must cease. The USD $11 billion project would be the third-largest hydroelectric dam in the world [BBC report]. In deciding to suspend the project, the judge cited the damage the dam would cause to fishing for indigenous people. The government argued that the dam would provide the clean, renewable energy the country needs to meet growing energy needs.

Earlier this month, the Malaysian Federal Court [official website] unanimously ruled against indigenous people [JURIST report] challenging a similar hydroelectric dam. The indigenous people argued that they received inadequate compensation for the Sarawak government's seizure of their land to build the dam. The judges stated that if the plaintiffs were not satisfied with the amount of compensation then that is a matter for arbitration, not for the court. In December, the US government pledged to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [JURIST report], a non-binding UN treaty expressing support for the rights of indigenous peoples. The US was the last member to lend its support to the treaty. In August 2010, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called on governments to improve the living conditions of indigenous peoples [JURIST report] and support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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