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Ten Brazilian Dam Protesters Hospitalized

SAO PAULO, Brazil, March 13, 2002 (ENS) - Ten anti-dam protestors were hospitalized on Tuesday after clashes with the police in Rio Grande do Sul state in the far south of Brazil, according to a report from the Brazilian branch of the conservation group International Rivers Network.

The demonstrators are part of Brazil's Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB) which is engaged in a national campaign of protests against Brazil's hydropower energy policy.

Four MAB supporters, including two well known Catholic priests, were injured by police rubber bullets at the Barra Grande dam site on the Uruguay River. The priests were among the 500 people marching to the dam worksite. They were hospitalized in Esmeralda.

The other six activists were hospitalized after being beaten by military police who attacked protestors at a public meeting at an electric agency in the state capital, Porto Alegre.

The mobilization marks the week of March 14, the Fifth International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life.

dam

Itaipu Dam in southern Brazil. Its hydroelectric power plant is the largest in the world. (Photo courtesy AmericaTravelling)
Also on Tuesday, MAB led a march of more than 500 people to the site of the Inter-American Development Bank's annual meeting in Fortaleza in northeast Brazil. The bank plans to finance new dams in Brazil.

Other protests took place in 11 states, including Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso, where MAB is camped out in front of the governor's palace to try to meet with state political leaders.

MAB will protest in Brasília on Thursday and present a series of demands to the federal government.

The group is demanding that the government halt subsidies to energy intensive industries, such as aluminum production, and instead provide electricity to rural communities. Aluminum companies, including multinationals Alcoa and Billiton, plan to build a series of huge dams in the Brazilian Amazon.

Also on Thursday, a protest in the city of Altamira on the Xingu river, a major Amazon tributary, will target plans to build Belo Monte, which would be the world's third largest hydropower plant.

Opponents say that Belo Monte would only be economically feasible if at least four more reservoirs are built to store water upstream. These dams would flood over 10,000 square kilometers of the Amazon rainforest, affecting indigenous communities and endangered species, the International Rivers Network says.

The anti-dam protesters are urging the government to provide incentives for improved energy efficiency and energy conservation, biomass and co-generation, and wind and solar energy.

MAB is demanding fair compensation for people who have lost their lands and livelihoods as a result of dam construction. Tens of thousands of families have received either inadequate compensation or no compensation at all, and have been forcefully expelled from productive lands to regions with barren soils.

MAB is calling on the Brazilian government to support these families with development programs which encourage small-scale farming communities.

Tomorrow's International Day of Action Against Dams, and for Rivers, Water, and Life, will be marked by events in 35 countries worldwide. Details of these events are online at: http://www.irn.org/dayofaction.



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