From: eTaiwan News
Massive Amazon infrastructure projects to produce hydroelectric energy and pave muddy jungle roads will hurt indigenous populations as South American governments boost financing to promote economic development, Roman Catholic leaders warned Monday.
The projects under way in Brazil and neighboring nations that share the Amazon are aimed at "maximizing profits" at the expense of Indians and descendants of black slaves who eke out a living in the world's largest tropical rainforest, the Latin American Episcopal Conference said in a statement.
"We want to demonstrate our concern for the multiple threats for the Amazon," said bishops, priests and lay Catholic leaders from across Latin America after holding a four-day meeting about the Amazon in the Brazilian jungle city of Manaus.
Their declaration singled out state-financed infrastructure projects for the Amazon that seek "the integration of countries using commercial justification to maximize profits."
No specific projects were identified, but Brazil is on an extended building spree to construct dams and pave roads that would open up previously areas for development. Some of the roads will give Brazilian companies export corridors through other nations to the Pacific Ocean.
Brazilian officials say the projects must receive environmental approval before going forward, and that the dams will provide nonpolluting energy.
Among the most controversial is the proposed Belo Monte dam on an Amazon River tributary that will be put out to bid later this year.
Critics say the dam _ which would be the third largest in the world _ will swallow rainforest, kill off native fish and flood an area so large that 16,000 people will be displaced.
Latin America's largest nation is also financing big infrastructure projects in neighboring countries with funds from Brazil's National Development Bank.
The state-financed projects "violate the rights of the Indian people and African descendants for their territory, living space, clean water, education, health and work," the statement said.