[www.inewsguyana.com] – Plans to build a massive hydro-electric dam on the land of two unique tribes in Guyana would lead to the destruction of a unique people and vast tracts of rainforest, a new report has revealed on Thursday, November 14.
The report ‘Dug out, dried out or flooded out?’, written by anthropologist Dr Audrey Butt Colson and published by Survival International, reveals that Guyana’s government aims to push ahead with one or more dams on the Upper Mazaruni River, which would flood out the entire Akawaio indigenous people and an Arekuna community.
The very project was initially shelved in the 1970s after funders, including the World Bank, withdrew following a campaign by the Akawaio and Survival International.
It was noted that the Guyana government has failed to obtain the indigenous peoples’ consent, as required by international law, and the tribes have expressed their vocal opposition to the project.
The dam would turn the Akawaio and Arekuna into refugees and forever destroy an area famed for its magnificent scenery, bio-diversity and scientific interest. It was made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Lost World’.
The Upper Mazaruni communities declared in a statement, “Our grandparents didn’t accept the hydro-project in the past, the grandchildren share the position of our grandparents and say NO to the ‘Kurupung Project’ [formerly known as the Upper Mazaruni dam].’
Jean La Rose of the Amerindian Peoples Association in Guyana said, “We understand that the country needs to develop in a world that is changing, but this must not come at the expense of our lives as a people. Land is the life source that sustains us and will have to sustain our generations to come. Our distinct culture, history and identity as the first peoples of this nation who are dependent on our environment for survival must be respected. The principles of free, prior and informed consent must be implemented at all levels by the state on any projects and programmes that will have economic and cultural impacts on us as indigenous peoples.”
The Akawaio have said, ‘”This land keeps us together within its mountains – we come to understand that we are not just a few people or separate villages but one people belonging to a homeland.”
Brazilian construction companies involved in the controversial Belo Monte dam are likely to bid to build the dam, which would provide energy for the mining industries of Guyana and Brazil.
The Akawaio have been urging the Guyana government for many years to recognize their collective land rights as increasing numbers of Guyanese and Brazilian gold-miners have invaded their land.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Guyana is using its ‘Low-Carbon Development Strategy’ as a trump card but this does not justify its cruel dispossession of these indigenous peoples’ forest home. This land belongs to the Akawaio and their Arekuna neighbors. The project is not ‘progress’: it’s theft, pure and simple. History shows that when tribal peoples’ land is stolen they are left utterly destitute, if they survive at all. Make no mistake about it – this project will destroy the Akawaio tribe.’