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Avatar maker fights for Amazon tribes people

Film director James Cameron met tribes people whose lives along the Xingu River will be turned upside down by what would be the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam.The Brazilian government’s planned Belo Monte Dam would divert the flow of the Xingu and devastate a huge area of the Brazilian rainforest, uprooting more than 20,000 people and threatening the survival of tribes peoples.

 In the 15 years since he wrote the script for “Avatar,” his epic 3D sci -fi tale of greed versus nature, Mr Cameron has become an environmentalist and is backing efforts to get the building of the dam halted. The most controversial dam project in Brazil, Belo Monte is viewed as a crucial turning point in a wider struggle about the future of Amazonia. The government plans to build more than 100 large dams in the Amazon Basin over the next 20 years. And many Brazilians believe that if Belo Monte is approved, it will act as a licence to destroy all the Amazon’s magnificent rivers - next the Tapajos, the Teles Pires, then the Araguia-Tocantins, and so on. Conservationists say if Belo Monte goes ahead, the Amazon will become a series of lifeless reservoirs, its life drained away by giant walls of concrete and steel.

For years the project was on the shelf, but the government now plans to hold an auction to award contracts for its construction on April 20. Mr Cameron, who based the fictional planet in Avatar on Amazon rain forests, met leaders from 13 tribes who had gathered to hold a special council to discuss their last-ditch options. The night before Mr. Cameron and his wife arrived, villagers watched a DVD of Avatar at the chief of the Arara tribe’s house “What happens in the film is what is happening here,” Chief José Carlos Arara, 30 told The New York Times. Speaking to the tribes people, Mr Cameron said the dam is an “example of the type of thing we are showing in ‘Avatar’ — the collision of a technological civilization’s vision for progress at the expense of the natural world and the cultures of the indigenous people that live there,” he said.“The snake kills by squeezing very slowly,” Mr. Cameron. “This is how the civilized world slowly, slowly pushes into the forest and takes away the world that used to be,” he added.

The film maker said that he was writing a letter to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urging him to reconsider the dam and that he would press for a meeting with the president. He is planning to go back to the Amazon this week, this time with Sigourney Weaver and at least another member of the Avatar cast in tow.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children