Court rules that indigenous people must be consulted on the construction of the Manaus-Boa Vista electricity line

The bill, a point of interest of president Jair Bolsonaro, aims to link Roraima to the national grid

Waimiri-Atroari Tribe (Photo: Public Relations/Eletrobras Eletronorte)
Waimiri-Atroari Tribe (Photo: Public Relations/Eletrobras Eletronorte)

The TRF-1 (Regional Federal Court of Region 1), in Brasilia has decided not to nullify the auction and advance licensing conceded by Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment) by two votes to one. This concerns work on the electricity transmission line between Manaus and Boa Vista. Despite this, three judges acknowledged that the Waimiri-Atroari people, who live on part of the territory through which the work will pass, must be consulted prior to the next phase of environmental licensing. 

The Waimiri-Atroari tribe located in the north of the state of Amazonas and in the south of Roraima, were massacred in the 1970s, during the construction of the BR174 highway that joins the two state capitals, crossing indigenous land. The genocide almost led to the extinction of the kinja people, as they call themselves. The court’s decision on consultation of the indigenous people represents an important measure to ensure their constitutional rights are respected.

The decision, taken on 19 June took into account two moves by the Amazonas Federal Public Defender’s Office, that called for suspension of the project on the grounds that it does not comply with a number of national regulations or with Convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation), ratified by Brazil.

The Convention is one of the main international instruments concerning indigenous people. It imposes the need to consult the peoples involved every time legislative or administrative measures, that directly affect them, are being discussed. 

As the decision was not unanimous, the case will now be sent for judgment by a wider group, where the decision may be reviewed. 

The Tucuruí Line

The venture, known as the “Linhão de Tucuruí”, involves the installation of 259 electrical transmission aerials between the cities of Manaus and Boa Vista and will occupy 123 kilometres of indigenous land.  

This project was declared to be “in the national interest” by president Jair Bolsonaro, in an attempt to speed up its implementation. The aim of the project is to link Roraima to the national grid. Today, the state is supplied by Venezuela and by thermoelectric plants.

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