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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 97 13:45:05 CDT
From: Mark Graffis <ab758@virgin.usvi.net>
Article: 16938

Amazon Indians meet to protest rain forest destruction

AP, 26 August 1997; 10:11 p.m. EDT (0211 GMT)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP)—Nearly 100 indigenous leaders from Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana will convene in Brazil's northeastern Roraima state on Wednesday to protest development projects they claim are threatening the rain forest—and their own livelihoods.

Topping the discussion agenda for the four-day meeting are large-scale logging projects, gold mining and super-highways that cut through pristine tropical rain forest.

The summit is an opportunity for indigenous organizations in the region to advance joint proposals for defense of their territories and for economic alternatives for their communities, said Atossa Soltani, a spokeswoman for Amazon Watch, the non-governmental organization coordinating the meeting.

Among projects listed for review are: the BR-174 superhighway that cuts through the northern Amazon region in Brazil; the 350-kilometer (220-mile) Georgetown-Brazil jungle road link; and Venezuela's mammoth Guri hydroelectric plant, with the potential to supply power to neighboring countries such as Guyana.

Indians in the affected countries claim the projects pose a threat to the tropical jungle, where most of them live.[7] map

During a larger summit in May, indigenous leaders from nine Amazon Basin countries warned such projects had already caused severe environmental damage to the region, including polluting prime fishing areas and devastating hunting grounds.

Guyana, a former British colony on South America's northeast shoulder, is embroiled in land disputes with its 35,000 Amazon Indians over efforts to open up more forest for commercial purposes. The country, which has one of the world's largest expanses of virgin rain forest, is increasingly being eyed by foreign firms as a potential source of timber.

Guyana is also home to one of the South America's largest gold mines, which provides a fourth of the country's gross domestic product. The mine triggered fears among environmental groups after its holding dam broke in July 1995, flooding a major river with cyanide-tainted water.

Soltani said Indian groups need the summit to spur awareness of the effects of such projects on the world's dwindling rain forests.

Among those expected to address the summit are Ageu Flotencio da Cunha, Brazil's attorney general, officials from the Washington-based World Resources Institute, and the president of Venezuela's power company.