Dam the Rivers, Damn the People
Development and Resistance in Amazonian Brazil
Cummings, Barbara J.
Year Published: 1990
Pages: 132pp Price: $14.95 ISBN: ISBN 1-85383-067-4
Resource Type: Book
Cx Number: CX4490
Cummings describes Amazonia as a colony whose resources are exploited by and 'exported' to the country's industrial south. As a result of the encroachment on their rainforest land, the peoples of Amazonia, particularly the Amazonia Indians, have suffered death, displacement, loss of self-sufficiency and exposure to disease.
Abstract: Although formal democracy returned to Brazil in 1985, there has been little 'participatory democracy' for Amazonia. In her book, Dam the Rivers, Damn the People: Development and Resistance in Amazonian Brazil, Barbara Cummings describes Amazonia as a colony whose resources are exploited by and 'exported' to the country's industrial south. As a result of the encroachment on their rainforest land, the peoples of Amazonia, particularly the Amazonia Indians, have suffered death, displacement, loss of self-sufficiency and exposure to disease, says Cummings.
A drastic reduction in the Waimiri-Atroari Indian population was recorded following the construction of a section of the Transcontinental highway through their reserve. Deaths were caused by an influx of disease to which the Indians were not immune and by battles between Indians and road construction crews. Battles were also fought between Indians and the government Indian agency FUNAI. Cummings alleges that the then regional director of FUNAI, Sebastiao Amancio, was responsible for the attempted genocide of the Waimiri-Atroari, when a powder dropped from planes 'reportedly burned their throats and resulted in immediate death'. Further encroachment on the reserve comes from licenced mining concessions throughout the reserve and from the Balbina reservoir.
The Brazilian government's '2010 Plan' outlines 31 hydroelectric dams to be constructed in the northern region but Amazonia's habitat, people and wildlife are jeopardized by such projects. Barbara Cummings describes the impact of the Balbina dam on the riverine community of Cachoeira Morena. The river had provided fish, irrigation, drinking water, sanitation and transportation. Now, 'the people can no longer provide for their basic needs without reliance on government programs'. Fauna and flora have also suffered. Due to interruption of the annual flood cycles and subsequent fish losses, 'an entire community of tree species, dependent on the fishes yearly feeding and seed dispersal habits, are at risk'.
Cummings believes unified resistance to the exploitation of Amazonia is crucial to the region's survival. Resistance is currently fragmented but it is developing some unity at last. Alliances like the 'Amazon Alliance' between rubber tappers and Indians, and alliances between those with conservation versus economic interests have been established. Cummings writes: 'The democratization of information and public opposition from all affected sectors offers a timely opportunity to meet the challenge of a unified resistance, and to form a network to protect the future needs of Amazonia'. She dedicates her book to the memory of Chico Mendes, creator of the 'Amazon Alliance', who was assassinated.
Table of Contents
Acronyms and Abbreviations
1. Amazonian Development: An Overview
2. Dams in the Rainforest: What Do We Know?
3. 3. The 2010 Plan
4. Balbina: A Case Study
5. Altamira-Xingu: Birth of the Resistance
6. Under the Politics of Development
7. Prospects for the Future