POLITICAL ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS OF AMAZONIAN RENEWABLE ENERGY
Energy expansion and related infrastructure development in the Amazon is driven by the political economy of energy in Brazil and internationally. There are several key perspectives that shape the political economy of energy development in the Amazon. They include: the local communities and social movement organizations that represent them, Brazilian government agencies on the local and federal levels, Brazilian financial interests that are sometimes represented by government agencies but also include private interests, and international entities such as lenders and governments. These diverse social actors both conflict and align with one another to shape the political economy and its outcome in the Amazon. Section 24.4.1 outlines the role and effects of each factor in the political economy of renewable energy in the Amazon.
Local Socioeconomic Development: Communities and Social Movement Organizations
The Amazon is an incredibly diverse region composed of over 200 indigenous groups, people of Portuguese descent and of African descent. Energy development is often characterized by conflicts with local communities. This is especially true in Brazil where the long history of dam building has encompassed conflict with communities and social movements in sites across the country (Cummings 2013). The shifting landscape of biomass is also affecting socioeconomic development locally. Both forms of energy development often involve the in-migration of larger economic investors and resources, which have effects on local populations.
Biomass facilities are often characterized by the displacement of small-scale landholders and the concentration ofland tenures often involving mechanization
(Tanner and Allouche 2011). Jobs for sugar workers are low-paying and involve difficult working conditions. In order to protect the forest, conservation techniques have been implemented and localized management strategies have been employed (Naughton-Treves, Holland, and Brandon 2005). The Bolsa Floresta programme, a programme in the State of Amazonas, supports the conservation of forests with a targeted approach to engaging forest communities in resource management, such as through payment for ecosystem services. Evaluations of this programme have had mixed results, and few have paid attention explicitly to biomass development in the context of forests.
Conflict with local communities regarding dam development is largely driven by displacement of local populations and community fragmentation (Windsor and McVey 2005). Hydroelectric dams have displaced over one million people in Brazil. They are controversial since many populations have not been resettled, and those who have been resettled by the state often live in conditions of greater poverty than before they were moved (de Araujo 1990). Displacement is very common, which results in impacts on living patterns and kinship systems (Tilt, Braun, and He 2009). Job capacity often actually decreases as mechanization related to dam building takes the place of more labour-intensive industries.
Another human impact of dam construction is increased illness in directly affected and adjacent communities. Often, infant mortality rises, malaria and other illnesses increase at the local level (Lerer and Scudder 1999). Some of these problems are caused by the fragmentation of community and home and decreased access to proper nutrition, among other social determinants. Others are related directly to environmental degradation, such as standing water, causing proliferation of mosquitoes that cause malaria. For example, at Serra da Mesa dam in Goias, schistosomiasis increased dramatically because of dam construction (Thiengo, Santos, and Fernandez 2005). Mercury is also released into the food chain through reservoir leaching.
Since these conflicts have generally occurred in tandem with development of specific projects and most large dams in the country are in regions outside of the Amazon, less conflict has occurred in this region than elsewhere. Local communities are often divided over dam development, with some community members in favour of dam building, anticipating positive effects on the local economy. This is generally true of local political leaders whose governments receive an annual portion of the profits of such energy installations. Local communities affected by flooding or drying of river resources often protest against dam building. This activity is reflected in a long history of the anti-dam movement in Brazil that began in the south of the country in the 1970s and has spread throughout the nation where dams are built (McCormick 2009). The Movement for Dam-Affected People has often led this movement while collaborating with local organizations. In the Amazon, this has included organizations such as the Indigenous Missionary Counsel, the Xingu Lives, and the Socio-Environmental Institute.
In the Amazon, local communities that oppose dam construction and the organizations that represent them are often focused on protecting the rights and livelihoods in the area. These dynamics have occurred in several Amazonian cases, especially in two built since the abandonment of the military government. The first was the Rio Madeira complex, whose impacts were close to the city of Porto Velho. Two companies, FURNAS and Odebrecht, led the development of these dams with support from the newly elected President Inacio Lula da Silva. Viability studies for the Rio Madeira dams began around the same time that the second model of Belo Monte was being developed in 2001 and 2002. When Belo Monte was again defeated in 2003, the Ministry of Mines and Energy proposed a new focus on Rio Madeira rather than Belo Monte. However, populations in the area around Porto Velho, the main town that would be affected, were divided in their support for the dam complex. A number of local organizations protested its construction citing law 10257/01, which guarantees that indigenous communities impacted by development projects will have access to information about it and ability to engage in discussion regarding its planning, but they were defeated.
The Belo Monte dam was first proposed and defeated in 1989 after a massive local protest supported by international organizations and celebrities. In the following 25 years, a variety of models of the Belo Monte dam were proposed, discussed, and rejected. In 2005, it was proposed and it received the first licence. A variety of national and local organizations contested Belo Monte, siting its environmental impacts and the potential it had to illegally displace indigenous communities. MDTX worked in partnership with Forum Carajas, Living Rivers, and the Catholic Church, protesting its construction. The Federal Prosecutor supported these organizations by launching over a dozen lawsuits against the dam. Even after the second licence of the necessary three was granted in 2011, protests continued, including violent occupation of the dam site. As of January 2016, the third operating licence for the dam has been suspended due to the lack of address for impacts on indigenous communities.
Local communities have some influence on the renewable energy portfolio in the Amazon both through vocal opposition to specific projects and through their official inclusion in national programmes for inclusion. However, their increased participation could both bolster their socioeconomic development and improve outcomes of projects through the use of their localized understanding of environment and land use.