WASHINGTON — Oscar-winning movie director James Cameron on Thursday said tribes in Brazil's Amazon rainforest could turn to violence to block construction of a massive dam.
"The Kayapo are going to fight," Cameron told AFP in Washington, where he was named an explorer-in-residence at National Geographic.
"They're not going to just shrug and walk away. They're the most aggressive tribe in the area" of the Xingu River basin, where the Brazilian government is forging ahead with plans to build the $11 billion Belo Monte dam, in spite of locals repeatedly lodging protests against the project.
"The Brazilian government is not listening to the indigenous community at all," Cameron said.
"They're determined to build this dam, which is going to be the third largest and probably the most inefficient dam in the world," said the director of Avatar, which tells the story of how the peaceful Na'Vi people are forced to fight against strip-miners from Earth intent on destroying Na'Vi culture on the planet Pandora, to get their hands on a precious mineral resource, unobtainium.
Since he finished working on Avatar, Cameron has made three trips to the region in the Amazon where the dam is to be built.
The Brazilian government argues that the dam is necessary to meet Brazil's growing energy needs and to drive strong economic growth, which is raising the standard of living for most Brazilians.
"They could easily solve their energy requirements through efficiency initiatives for a fraction of the cost of building the dam, and they wouldn't have to destroy so much rainforest and displace 25,000 indigenous people," Cameron said.
In April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked Brazil to "immediately suspend the licensing process" for the dam, and called on it to protect indigenous peoples in the Xingu River basin whose lives and "physical integrity" would be threatened by the project.
The dam would divert 80 percent of the Xingu River's flow to an artificial reservoir, "potentially leading to the forced displacement of thousands of people," the Amazon Watch nonprofit, which fights for indigenous peoples' rights and to protect the environment in the Amazon, says on its website.
But two weeks ago, the Brazilian government granted an installation license for the Belo Monte dam, clearing the way for construction to begin as early as next month.
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