Indigenous peoples protest at UN against construction of Belo Monte damn in Brazil (2)

09:15, April 29, 2010      

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Indigenous people from around the world take part in a peaceful protest in front of the Brazilian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, the United States, April 28, 2010. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

As the demand for cleaner energy increases, so has the desire for hydroelectric dams. But local populations often feel left out from consultations between governments and private enterprises. That leaves them with no choice but to take to the streets.

A clear conflict has arisen from the need to develop clean energy systems and respecting human rights, Athili Anthony Sapruna, a member of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Right in northeast India, told Xinhua. As a result, local groups are mistakenly painted as impeding progress.

"We are easily blacklisted as anti-development but we're not," he said. "Everyone needs electricity but this is about the ability to survive."

The demonstration against Belo Monte comes as the United Nations wraps up a two-week forum on indigenous issues. Corporations in energy and extractive industries are often involved in abusing the rights of indigenous peoples, which is frequently permitted and tolerated by governments, according to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Ethiopia and Kenya are currently working on plans to build Gibe 3 Dam on the Omo River. Descending from the central Ethiopian plateau, the Omo River meanders across the country's parched southwest before spilling into Kenya's Lake Turkana, the world's largest desert lake. More than 500 Mega Watts of Gibe 3's electricity are already earmarked for export to Kenya and other neighboring countries.

But Christiana Saiti Louwa from the El-Molo people of Kenya, who number a mere 300 people, told Xinhua that the dam will prevent water from flowing into Lake Turkana, where they live on the southeastern shore.

"The ecosystem will be completely destroyed," Louwa said. "The two governments made a deal and they don't care about us."

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