Sting is speaking out against Brazil’s renewed plan for a huge dam in the Amazon that he helped halt two decades ago, saying the project would destroy a river and the lives of thousands who depend on it.
The British music star voiced opposition to the Belo Monte dam at a news conference Tuesday, saying: “I stand in solidarity with the indigenous people who are trying to stop it.”
He is among a growing number of celebrities, including film director James Cameron and actress Sigourney Weaver, who have joined activists in lobbying against Brazil’s plan to build the world’s third-largest dam on the Xingu River.
Sting helped put a temporary halt to the Belo Monte dam in 1989 when he protested alongside Brazilian Indians in an event that helped persuade international lenders not to finance the project.
But buoyed by a strong economy, the Brazilian government is now moving ahead with the hydroelectric dam on its own, insisting it is an indispensable energy solution for the country.
“All of the reasons I fought against it 20 years ago are still there. It will destroy an entire river system and destroy the lives and culture of the people who live there and have lived there for thousands of years,” said Sting, who was in Venezuela for a concert.
“The dam is too far away from Sao Paulo to be any use to ordinary Brazilians,” he said. “The plan is for it to be the first of six or seven dams, with even more destruction.”
Environmentalists and indigenous groups say the dam would lay waste to wildlife and ruin the livelihoods of those who live in the area to be flooded. They say the electricity produced would mostly benefit mining companies, and that the dam wouldn’t be financially viable unless several more dams are built upstream to add to the reservoir storage capacity.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva insists the dam is essential for the country’s future, saying it will supply the growing population in the Amazon region and will produce clean energy while supporting the expanding economy.
Silva says it will displace 16,000 people. Activists argue that 40,000 will be forced to move.
Sting has for years advocated land rights for indigenous people and forest conservation through the Rainforest Foundation, which he founded in 1989.
When Cameron participated in protests against the project in Brazil last month, he compared the anti-dam struggle by indigenous people to the plot of his blockbuster film “Avatar” — which depicts a fictitious race fighting to protect its homeland from plans to extract its resources.
The 11,000-megawatt dam would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric energy producer behind China’s Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam on Brazil’s border with Paraguay.
Norte Energia, a consortium of nine companies, won the bidding for the contract to build the dam last month after the government prevailed over legal challenges that had temporarily halted the bidding three times.