David de Rothschild Prepares for a New Adventure in the Amazon (Interview)
© Luca Babini
For the Plastiki expedition, David de Rothschild sailed across the Pacific in a boat made of plastic to raise awareness of ocean pollution. His newest adventure, which sets off next week, will take him into the heart of the Amazon region in Brazil.
TreeHugger had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about this latest expedition.
TreeHugger: We hear you're preparing for another adventure. What's the destination this time?
David de Rothschild: Yes, I am getting ready for another adventure. We're heading off for the amazon early next week. Part of the team is already down there now. It's a pretty interesting adventure, and we will attempt to use art as a way to raise awareness on social and environmental issues.
We're going down into Northeast Brazil, an area that is slated for the Bello Monte Dam complex. The area is actually called the "Big Bend," which is part of the Xingu River. We'll start out in a place called Altamira and we travel from there, up the river, and try and have conversations with various communities along the way to try and work out what will be lost when the construction of the hydroelectric dam goes forward.
TH: Why did you choose the "Big Bend" area, specifically?
DDR: We chose this area just because it's one of the areas that will be effected most. Obviously, when you create a dam there are two major outcomes. One is flooding to create a reservoir to store the water so the flow is consistent and you can generate electricity consistently as it flows past the turbine. The other is that while you're flooding one area, you're also blocking off another. So this hundred kilometer stretches of the Xingu river is one of the stretches that will be most effected. It will be drying up. More than 80 percent of the current volume of the river is expected to disappear. That will have a huge social effect in addition to impacting fisheries, groundwater, transport routes. It will also create areas of stagnant water which will introduce the issue of water-born diseases. These are all things that aren't cited in an environmental impact assessment.
We're told that this is "green power" and everyone should be happy.
TH: Can you explain a little bit more about what you'll be doing while you're in the Amazon?
DDR: There will be around 20,000 people that will be directly displaced by the reservoir and flooding. There have been some relocation programs identified by the government, but they really haven't figured out how they are going to move these indigenous tribes. Still, it's one of these things where they have no choice.
In addition, you're going to have huge migrations into the area as well. They're estimating that there may be as many as 100,000 migrants, most of which will be looking for jobs. The estimate that there will be about 20,000 jobs directly created and 25,000 indirectly created by the project. But that's only 45,000 new jobs. You still have 55,000 migrants largely unaccounted for.
So the combination of these two things will create some significant political, social, and environmental impacts.
We want to go along the river in this area as much as we can. We want to talk to the communities along the big bend to get a sense of what it feels like to have this inflicted upon you, what it feels like on the ground, and what will be lost from a social and environmental standpoint. It's a very rich area for biodiversity and the fact it will be effectively dried out by the dam opens the way for many extinctions and massive changes in the biodiversity of the region.
TH: Do you have any films or art pieces planned at this point?
DDR: We're going to wait and see. Of course we have a lot of ideas. One is that we would like to create a sort of totem pole with the community, based on a local legend.
It suggests that when this community is displaced, it will cause a widespread impact.