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Assassination of Nicinha, Jirau dam area, Rondônia, Brazil


Nicinha was a leader of the MAB fighting for the rights of the people displaced by the Jirau dam, denouncing the effects of the dam on fishing activity in the Madeira River. In 2011, the "ribeirinha" community of fisherfolk of Mutum Paraná, in the district of Porto Velho, upstream from the city of Porto Velho on the Madeira River, near Abuna on the border with Bolivia, was displaced because of flooding from the reservoir of the hydroelectric dam of Jirau, owned by Energia Sustentável do Brasil (ESBR). The community was in theory relocated in a place called Nova Mutum Paraná, a housing project for up to six thousand inhabitants, meant for people displaced. The relocation process did not go well - some of the houses were commercialized  in favour of other people. Faced with a precarious situation, a group of families affected by the dam, occupied empty houses in Nova Mutum Paraná, in 2014. The settlement, that already suffered from water logging and lack of drinkable water, was submerged by a terrible flood along the whole Madeira River in 2014. In this context of adversities and injustices, Nilce de Souza Magalhães, better known as Nicinha, became a local leader of the MAB, the Brazilian movemement of "atingidos por barragens", those affected by dams. She had arrived in Porto Velho 50 years before, as a child from a seringueiro family in Acre. Together with two colleagues, Lurdilane Gomes da Silva (Ludma) and Iza Cristina Bello (Índia), they formed a Comissão de Defesa da Ocupação, and with help from the attorney general (Ministério Público) of the state of  Rondônia, some local politicians and the MAB they confronted the firms controllings the dams, defending the rights of affected families. Over the years several claims were made, thanks to the leadership of fisher folks who participated in public hearings and demonstrations pointing out the serious impacts made on fishing activity in the Madeira River. The accusations led to two civil investigations carried out by the Federal and State Public Prosecution offices. One is regarding the non-implementation of the state’s program to support fishing activity. The second investigation of a more criminal nature points to the data manipulation in monitoring reports of fishing activity in the Madeira River.

The people making public such facts suffered from threats. On 7th January 2016, Nicinha disappeared; her corpse was found on 21 June in the lake formed by the Jirau dam, with bound hands and feet, tied to a stone, near the place where she had lived. It took more than six months to have DNA test done to confirm that the corpse belonged to Nicinha. Her family had to wait that long for her funeral. On 22 December 2016, a political act took place organized by MAB and many other organizations together with her family, in the chapel of Santo Antônio, on the Madeira River in Porto Velho. The funeral mass was celebrated by the Archbishop of Porto Velho,  Dom Roque.

The jury trial of the two people accused of killing Nicinha, defendants Edione Pessoa da Silva and Leonardo Batista da Silva, was scheduled to take place on December 7th 2016, eleven months after the disappearance of Nicinha. However, the trial was adjourned due to the defense's request. The First Circuit Court of the region of Porto Velho rescheduled the jury trial due to the late attachment of an expert examination that was carried out one day before the jury trial was to take place. The law requires these attachments to be carried out at least 72 hours before trial takes place [3].

In the meanwhile, threats to her camarades Ludma and Índia intensified [4], a petition for protection to the programme of Human Rights (PPDDH) was made, according to the spokesman for MAB - Rondonia, João Marcos Dutra. [1][2] The MAB also points out that this is not an isolated crime.

Another 17 persons have been killed in the state of Rondonia in 2016 in environmental and land conflicts, apart from many other attempts at murder, threats, imprisoned peasants. Many land holdings are contested. The price of land is going up. One of the main cause of conflicts are infrastructures foreseen in IIRSA. There are plans for two more hydroelectic dams in the state, according to João Marcos Dutra. The state is a link in the chain with the south-centre of Brazil, with soy bean production to be sent to China through ports in the Pacific. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Assassination of Nicinha, Jirau dam area, Rondônia, Brazil
State or province:Rondônia
Location of conflict:Porto Velho
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Displaced fisherfolk from the Jirau dam in Porto Velho fought to get a better deal, with support from the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens. Those from Mutum Paraná were to be displaced to Nova Mutum. This resettlement programme failed. One of leaders of the displaced, Nicinha, was cruelly killed in January 2016.

The reservoir is planned to be 258 km², and the total capacity of the plant 3.750MW,[1]. The plant belongs to the much larger "Complexo do Rio Madeira". Its construction is led by the consortium "ESBR - Energia Sustentável do Brasil", with participation of Suez Energy (60%), Eletrosul (20%) and Chesf (20%).[2]

Level of Investment:3,128,000,000 [10 billion reais]
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:6,000
Start of the conflict:2011
Company names or state enterprises:Energia Sustentável do Brasil from Brazil
GDF Suez (GDF Suez) from France
Eletrosul Centrais Elétricas S/A from Brazil
Suez Energy South America Participações Ltda. (ENGIE) from France
Camargo Correa Investimentos em Infra-Estrutura S/A from Brazil
Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco (Chesf) from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Ministerio Público
International and Finance InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil
Banco do Brasil from Brazil
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:MAB, Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens

Conflict & Mobilization

Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Occupation of houses, for displaced people


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Accidents, Malnutrition, Deaths
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Nicinha was killed on January 7, 2016
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Jirau dam was built, the displaced fisherfolk complained, one of their main leaders was killed. The two killers are known and might be brought to court in 2017.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

ESBR - Technical data

[1] Corpo de Nicinha é encontrado após cinco meses desaparecido. Publicado em qua, 22/06/2016

[2] Militantes do MAB realizam ato para denunciar violência em Rondônia, 22 Dec. 2016

[3] MAB - Nicinha’s body is identified by DNA testing

[4] MAB - Ludma and India, MAB militants of Rondônia, are honored in Rio de Janeiro

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Mutum até Debaixo D'Água

Saudades Mutum-Paraná, photographs of the flooded settlement

Meta information

Contributor:Joan Martinez Alier, ICTA-UAB
Last update09/05/2018




Ludma and India

Source: MAB - Ludma and India, MAB militants of Rondônia, are honored in Rio de Janeiro.