Historic Victory for People Affected by Dams

For the first time in Brazilian history, a decree will grant legal rights to people impacted by mega-dam projects. Tarso Genro, Governor of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, signed the decree creating a State Policy of People Affected by Hydroelectric Projects on June 23. 

Grassroots International joins our partner, Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), in celebrating this huge victory. MAB played a key role in pushing for the rights of communities displaced or disrupted by dams, and works for the rights of dam-affected communities nationwide.

In Rio Grande do Sul alone more than 50,000 people have been impacted by dam projects over the past 30 years, losing their land, work, family and community ties. The majority of these people have never received any sort of reparations for what they were forced to give up. “Thousands of people here in Rio Grande do Sul and throughout Brazil have been impacted by dams. This policy is the result of more than three decades of struggle,” said Neudicléia Oliveira of the national coordinating body of MAB

Up until now, the rights of those affected by dams have been defined on a case-by-case basis. They have varied greatly from one dam project to the next, and have always depended on the particular struggle that communities have organized around (be it land, jobs, or other related issues) rather than legal expectations and accountability.

With the signing of this policy, Rio Grande do Sul becomes the first Brazilian state to create a legal marker defining who people affected by dams are. The decree, as MAB points out, recognizes that “all the region” is affected, establishes criteria for reparations and a Permanent Participation Forum for each hydropower project in Rio Grande do Sul, with equal participation from civil society, the Federal Government, State Government, and entrepreneurs to decide the feasibility of the project.

“We hope that this initiative by the government of Rio Grande do Sul will serve as a precedent to pass similar legislation in other parts of the country,” Oliveira emphasizes. MAB also hope that this will push the federal government to pass the National Policy of Rights for People Affected by Dams (PNAB), a policy that MAB has been fighting for since 2012. PNAB is being negotiated.

Photo courtesy of MAB