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Tucuruí hydroelectric dam, Pará, Brazil

Tucuruí, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, has displaced 32.000 people since the 1980s, leaving communities in an ongoing struggle for compensation and land rights. Six people, including leading MAB activist Dilma Silva, were killed in 2019.


The construction of the Tucuruí hydroelectric plant on the Tocantins River in the Brazilian state of Pará started at the end of the 1970s under Brazil’s military dictatorship and controversially opened in 1984 as the first giant hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian Amazon. With the construction of the Tucuruí transmission line – which despite strong socio-ecological concerns will be soon extended to Roraima – the plant became a major hydroelectricity provider for the Northern Amazon region, in particular for the aluminum industry. Further extensions of the dam continued until the 2000s, making Tucuruí one of the world’s five largest hydroelectric plants. Located about 350 kilometers from the state’s capital Belém, it caused the flooding of an area of about 3,014 km2 and displaced about 32,000 people (according to official numbers), most of them quilombolas (afro-descendants), indigenous people (such as the Asurini, Gavião, Suruí, Parakanã, Xikrin, Guajará and the Krikati groups), peasants and traditional riverside dwellers, who have since then been fighting for their territorial rights. In this sense, their struggle reveals the interrelatedness of infrastructural megaprojects (and their underlying paradigm of economic growth and modernization) and Brazil’s conflictive agrarian and landless question. [1] [2][3] [4] [5] [6][7]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Tucuruí hydroelectric dam, Pará, Brazil
State or province:Pará
Location of conflict:Tucuruí
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
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

The Tucuruí plant is run by Centrais Elétricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. –Eletronorte. It has a capacity of 8,370 MW and was build in two stages: The first construction phase started in the late 1970s and was completed in 1992, while the construction of the second part started in 1998 doubled the capacity with the completion in 2007. [28] By today, it is Brazil’s second largest hydroelectric plant - the largest one only on Brazilian territory. Located on the Tocantins river in Brazil, 350km south of Belém, the hydroelectric plant generates power for a total of 13 million homes, including the nearby city of Tucuruí, but about two thirds of the energy go to the aluminum industry. The plant is linked to the Tucuruí transmission line which leads to the city of Macapá in the state of Amapá across the Amazon River and to the city of Manaus, integrating the Amazonas state into the Brazilian national electrical power grid. Plans to further extend the transmission line by 700 km to Boa Vista in Roraima – which has so far been largely dependent on Venezuelan hydroelectricity imports – have been delayed due to controversies in environmental licensing and the crossing of indigenous territories (e.g. the Waimiri-Atroari territory) but are now again being pushed forward in the “interest of national sovereignty” by the new Bolsonaro cabinet, with a planned construction start in July 2019. It would closely follow the BR-174 route, which was controversially established in the 1970s, and cost 1,5 billion R$. [1] [5] [10] [29] These plans are opposed by indigenous communities as, for example in 2016, 23 indigenous leaders declared that their communities were not consulted about the infrastructural projects in their territory. [30] The Tucuruí dam was among 13 dams classified as under “high risk of damage” by the Relatório de Segurança de Barragens da Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA) in 2017. [31]

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Project area:301,400
Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,500,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:32,000+ people displaced
Start of the conflict:1976
Company names or state enterprises:Centrais Elétricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. – Eletronorte (Eletronorte) from Brazil - Has public license to run Tucuruí hydroelectric plant
Relevant government actors:Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária – INCRA
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:EJOs:Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens
Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais (STR)
Comissão Pastoral da Terra
Associação dos Trabalhadores Agroextrativistas e Pescadores Artesanais (ATRA)
Via Campesina
Movimento Justiça e Paz
Movimento dos Expropriados pela Barragem de Tucuruí
Comissão dos Atingidos pela Hidrelétrica de Tucuruí (CAHTU)
National Human Rights Council (Conselho Nacional de Defesa dos Direitos Humanos, CDDPH)
Amigos da Terra
Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros (CNS)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
quilombolas (afro-descendants), indigenous people (such as the Asurini, Gavião, Suruí, Parakanã, Xikrin, Guajará and the Krikati groups)
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Air pollution, Soil erosion
Other Environmental impactsThe dam introduced a plague of Mansonia mosquitos
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Increase in violence and crime, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
In 2009, the trade unionist Raimundo Nonato do Carmo Silva was assassinated in Tucuruí. On March 22, 2019, the regional MAB coordinator Dilma Ferreira da Silva was murdered, along with other two people and two days later three more farm workers were assassinated.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:While the benefits of the Tucuruí dam have been highly unequal, it produced a series of social and environmental injustices. As for example Silva (2009) notes, Tucuruí and other megaprojects in the 1970s and 1980s – such as the Carajás mineral exploration project, the establishment of the aluminum industries and further infrastructures – followed a ‘development’ and ‘modernization’ model that led to the expansion of productive activities in the Amazon region. This colonization not only caused environmental degradation but also particularly affected the material and socio-cultural basis of social groups historically excluded from public policies: traditional populations and migrated families living from small-scale agriculture and extractivism. These faced negative consequences such as displacement or involuntary resettlement, a disruption of their local economies and mode of living, cultural damage, and the appropriation of land – which not least intensified territorial conflict. While these communities have been struggling for their basic rights for the last three decades, this has also nurtured notable social mobilizations and successful claims for compensation in some of the cases. [6]
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Environmental impacts of Brazil's Tucuruí Dam: unlearned lessons for hydroelectric development in Amazonia.
[click to view]

9. Fearnside, P. (2001): Environmental Impacts of Brazil’s Tucuruí Dam: Unlearned Lessons for Hydroelectric Development in Amazonia. In: Environmental Management, 27/3, pp. 377-396.

Beaty, S. (2009): O Movimento dos Atingidos Pela Barragem de Tucuruí: Uma História Oral. Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 595.
[click to view]

6. Silva, M. (2009): UHE - Tucuruí: Desterritorialização e Degradação Ambiental. O caso da Gleba Parakanã (PA) na Amazônia Brasileira. UEPA.

8. Fearnside, P. (1999): Social Impacts of brazil’s Tucuruí Dam. In: Environmental Management, 24/11, pp. 483-485.

12b. Arrifano, G. et al. (2018): Large-scale projects in the amazon and human exposure to mercury: The case-study of the Tucuruí Dam. In: Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 147, pp- 299-305.
[click to view]

13. Silva, M. (2014): Reordenamento territorial e transformações socioecológicas e culturais: lições adversas da construção da UHE Tucurui/PA. UEPA.

7. Corrêa; S. (2009): O Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragem na Amazônia: um movimento popular nascente de vidas inundadas. Revista Nera, 12/15, Julho/Dezembro de 2009, pp. 34-65.

4. Brasil de Fato (2019): Polícia prende suspeito do assassinato de Dilma Silva, militante do MAB no Pará. 26.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

5. Duailibi, J. (2019): Licenças para linhão de Tucuruí devem sair até maio. G1 Globo, 22.02.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

3. Gonzales, J. (2019): Leading Amazon dam rights activist, spouse and friend murdered in Brazil. Mongabay News, 27.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

14. (2011): MST - Atingidos por Tucuruí marcham para a barragem no Pará. 23.08.2013. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

15. Gazeta do Povo (2007): Invasores deixam usina de Tucuruí depois de 36 horas. 25.05.2007. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

12a. Talento, A. (2013): Às margens da usina de Tucuruí, 12 mil famílias vivem sem energia. Folha de S.Paulo, 07.01.2013. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

17. Jornal Resistencia Online (2016): Nota das organizações e movimentos sociais contra a condenação de militantes do MAB em Tucuruí. 20.01.2016. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

18. MAB (2013): Atingidos pela barragem de Tucuruí continuam mobilizados. 05.07.2013. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

19. Diário Online (2018): Manifestantes interditam acesso ao município de Tucuruí. 12.03.2018. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

20. ISA (2009): Sindicalista de Tucuruí é assassinado. 20.04.2009. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

21. MAB (2019): “Defendemos águas para a vida, não para a morte”, Press release 22.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

22. MAB (2019): “Últimas informações sobre o assassinato de Dilma Silva”, Online Article 23.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

23. Rousseff, D. (2019): O Assassinato de uma militante pela vida. Public statement, 22.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

27. MAB (2019): Organizações internacionais cobram justiça para Dilma. 08.04.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

14. (2011): MST - Atingidos por Tucuruí marcham para a barragem no Pará. 23.08.2013. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

26. G1 Globo (2019): Polícia prende fazendeiro suspeito de mandar matar seis pessoas na zona rural de Baião, no Pará. 26.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

30. Trajano, A. (2016): Waimiri Atroari não autorizam linhão de Tucuruí em suas terras. Amazônia Real, 07.01.2016. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

1. Geoshen (2018): 10 Largest Hydroelectric Dams in the World. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

2. Comissão Pastoral da Terra (2019): Três assentados são mortos no Assentamento Salvador Allende, região de Tucuruí (PA). 22.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

24. Brasil de Fato (2019): O que se sabe sobre a morte de Dilma Silva, do MAB, e outras duas pessoas no Pará. 24.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

28. Eletronorte (2019): Tucuruí. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

29. Diário Online (2019): Governo declara linhão de Tucuruí interesse nacional. 28.02.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

31. MAB (2019): Projeto de lei institui política estadual dos atingidos por barragens no Pará. 14.02.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

11. MAB (2009): Trabalhadores ocupam sede do INCRA, em Tucuruí. 05.11.2009. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

25. G1 Globo (2019): Três corpos carbonizados são encontrados em fazenda vizinha ao local onde líder rural foi morta no Pará. 25.03.2019. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

16. Ecodebate (2009): Atingidos pela barragem de Tucuruí e a luta por direitos, artigo de Rogério Almeida. 18.05.2009. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

10. Mapa de Conflitos Envolvendo Injustiça Ambiental e Saúde no Brasil (2019): PA – Atingidos por barragens, indígenas, quilombolas e comunidades tradicionais de Tucuruí lutam por seus direitos. Online, last access: 17.04.2019.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Projeto Memoria Social Tucuruí
[click to view]

Observatŕio Socio-Ambiental Barragem
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJustice Project (MS & GN)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:4141
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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