Amazonian Indigenous Peoples Mobilize Against Railway Mega-project That Threatens Rights and the Rainforest

Munduruku and Kayapó protest disrupted a hearing promoting the proposed Ferrogrão project, favored by Brazilian and international agribusiness
December 15, 2023

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS HERE (Credit @wellkumaruara)

Novo Progresso, Pará State, Brazil–This morning, around 100 Indigenous protestors from the Munduruku, Apiaká and Kayapó peoples disrupted a hearing to promote the construction of a mega-railroad, which they say violates their right to consultation and imperils the Amazon rainforest. Called by Brazilian senator Zequinha Marinho, today’s “Regional Mobilization Meeting to Support the Ferrogrão” gathered proponents of the proposed railroad, which is projected to cut 1,000 kilometers through the Amazon, driving an estimated 2,000 square kilometers of deforestation while impacting 16 Indigenous territories.

Indigenous demonstrators arrived at the event site with banners denouncing the impacts of the project and the imperative to comply with consultation protocols, with messages such as: “Ferrogrão is the destruction of the forest and indigenous peoples”; “Ferrogrão is not good for the people! Only for Cargill, Bunge, ADM, Dreyfus, etc,” “The railroad will have indigenous blood – they want to negotiate our rights.”

“This event attempts to legitimize a project that places the Amazon’s peoples and the forest itself at risk,” said Goldman Prize winner Alessandra Korap Munduruku.  “It tramples our rights. Our peoples’ consultation protocols were not respected, as required by ILO Convention 169. They discuss destroying our lands and don’t talk to us. They talk about megaprojects, but they don’t talk about land demarcation. Those who profit from this are not the people, they are the big companies like Cargill, Bunge, ADM, and Dreyfus. And they held this event a day after Congress overturned the vetoes to the “Marco Temporal” thesis, denying our constitutional land rights. We are here protesting, because we are worried they will advance this project while pushing indigenous peoples aside.”

The Ferrogrão, or “grain railroad,” is a priority of Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby and leading commodity traders such as Cargill, as it is projected to significantly cut the cost of key agricultural exports such as soy grown in the Amazon and neighboring Cerrado biome. Today’s hearing presented the project as an economic boon while denying its massive human rights and environmental footprint.

Cargill can’t claim to be eliminating deforestation and ecosystem destruction from its supply chain while currently building a supply chain in Brazil’s Amazon that destroys those forests and ecosystems,” said Mathew Jacobson, Campaign Director at Stand.earth.

“The Ferrogrão is an unviable project that ignores logistical alternatives, and threatens not only the Amazon and its people, but our collective future,” said Pedro Charbel, Amazon Watch Brazil campaign advisor. “It is past time for traditional communities and threatened Indigenous peoples to be consulted and it is shameful and illegal that this has yet to happen. The simple announcement of the Ferrogrão has already aggravated regional conflicts and rights violations in Indigenous territories.

Background information:

The Ferrogrão is linked to a larger infrastructure project called the Tapajós-Xingu Logistics Corridor, which also includes the paving of the BR-163 highway, the dredging of waterways, and the construction of cargo terminals. Data from the University of Rio de Janeiro and the Climate Policy Initiative estimate that, if the mitigation of problems arising from the project is not effective, more than 285,000 football fields of natural vegetation will be lost, corresponding to the emission of more than 75 million tons of carbon, in addition to other impacts such as significant biodiversity loss and the reduction of biome’s vital ecosystem services.

A Provisional Measure issued by President Temer in 2016 to make Ferrogrão viable intended to exclude around 862 hectares from the Jamanxim National Park. This move led to a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality by the Brazilian  political party PSOL, which won an injunction that suspended the development of the project in 2021. In May 2023, Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes authorized the resumption of studies on Ferrogrão, which were included in the Federal Government’s Program of Growth Acceleration (PAC).

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