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São Manoel Hydroelectric Dam, Mato Grosso - Pará, Brazil

São Manoel Dam has irreversibly altered the livelihoods of local communities. Its controversial construction at all cost now boosts energy supply along the extractive frontier but violates indigenous rights to self-determination and an intact environment.


In July 2017, 200 indigenous people occupied São Manoel Dam, over whose construction they have not been consulted – violating the rights to free, prior, and informed consultation as established by ILO Convention 169 and the Brazilian Constitution of 1988. For four days, the protesters – the majority of them women of the Munduruku group – held rituals and revindicated their rights to preserve their culture and environment, which became irreversibly impacted by the hydropower project that would start its operations soon after [1][2][3][4][5].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:São Manoel Hydroelectric Dam, Mato Grosso - Pará, Brazil
State or province:Mato Grosso / Pará
Location of conflict:Paranaitá (MT) / Jacarareacanga (PA)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Usina Hidrelétrica (UHE) São Manoel is located on the Teles Pires river, a principal affluent of the Tapajós river, at the border of Mato Grosso and Pará. The dam is operated by the consortium Empresa de Energia São Manoel (EESM), formed by the Chinese company Three Gorges, the Portuguese company EDP and the state-controlled company Furnas, which is part of the Eletrobrás group. Costs of the dam were about R$ 3.3 billion. [3]

Level of Investment for the conflictive project3,300,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:10,900
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Energias de Portugal (EDP) from Portugal
Furnas Centrais Elétricas from Brazil
Empresa de Energia São Manoel (EESM) from Brazil - Consortium operating UHE São Manoel
China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG ) from China
Relevant government actors:Brazilian Government
Ministry of Mines and Energy
Federal Public Ministry (MPF)
Empresa de Pesquisa Energética (EPE)
Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (Aneel)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Munduruku community & Movimento Ipereg Ayu
Associação Pahyhy’p, Associação Da’uk, Associação Pariri, Associação Dace
Associação de Defesa Etnoambiental Kanindé
Montanha and Mangabal communities
International Rivers
Repórter Brasil
Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV)
Instituto Socio-Ambiental (ISA)
Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT)
Centro Popular do Audiovisual (CPA)
Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB)
Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)
Conselho Indigenista Missionário (CIMI)
Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB)
Fórum de Mulheres da Amazonia Paraense (FMAP)
Frente por uma Nova Política Energética para o Brasil (FNPE)
Terra de Direitos
Greenpeace Brasil
WWF Brasil
Amazon Watch
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Kayabí, Munduruku and Apiaká groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Indigenous groups initially opposed the project and insisted on their right to be consulted. With the dam becoming a new reality, they now demand measures that would protect their culture, social rights and livelihoods through the establishment of a compensation fund. Particular demands include the devolution of stolen artifacts, the stop of repression and disinformation, the creation of a regional university, access to health care and basic services, and the demarcation of the still not officially recognized Sawré Muybu land, traditionally home of the Munduruku group.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The hydroelectric plant was implemented at all cost, destroying indigenous sacred sites and a pristine river ecosystem. The affected indigenous and traditional groups had no say in this process and faced repression when demanding dialogue and promised compensations.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Fearnside, P. (2015): Amazon dams and waterways: Brazil’s Tapajós Basin plans. In: Ambio, 44/5, pp. 426-439.
[click to view]

[1] Portal Amazônia (2017): Índios munduruku ocupam canteiro de obras da Usina de São Manoel, no Pará. 17.07.2017. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[2] Fórum Teles Pires (2017): Somos Feitos do Sagrado! Medium, 23.07.2017. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[3] Fórum Teles Pires (2017): Usina São Manoel amplia impactos no rio Teles Pires. Medium, 10.12.2017. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[4] Fórum Teles Pires (2017): Usina São Manoel: Ilegalidades e Racismo Institucional. Medium, 18.08.2017. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[5] Branford, S., Torres, M. (2018): NGOs denounce Tapajós basin intimidation, violence, Brazil inaction. Mongabay, 04.04.2018. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[6] Mota, J. (2018): “O governo quer acabar o mundo”, diz líder Munduruku. A Pública, 28.02.2018. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[8] Fórum Teles Pires (2018): Show de horrores. Medium, 26.06.2018. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[9] ICV (2018): Nota pública denuncia violações a direitos indígenas no Teles Pires. ICV, 22.03.2028. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[10] Gámez, L., Mota, C. (2019): Juruena Resiste: Luta histórica por um rio. Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, 25.06.2019. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[11] Fearnside, P. (2017): São Manoel: Barragem amazônica derrota Ibama. Amazônia Real, 25.09.2017. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[12] Loures, R., Branford, S. (2020): Amazon’s Munduruku stage daring Christmas raid to recover sacred urns. Mongabay, 20.02.2020. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[13b] Sullivan, Z. (2016): Amazon oil spill impacts indigenous villages on Teles Pires River. Mongabay, 21.11.2016. [Online, last accessed: 20.07.2020]
[click to view]

[13a] Monteiro, T. (2013): Hidrelétrica São Manoel: Cronologia de mais um desastre - Parte I. Correio da Ciutadania, 15.08.2013. [Online, last accessed: 04.10.2020]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Fórum Teles Pires (2017): "MOBILIZAÇÃO MUNDURUKU" (Video, Youtube, 09.07.2017)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update05/10/2020
Conflict ID:5216
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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