Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brazil bishop goes on hunger strike to protest dam; his conditions turns worse

BBC: A Brazilian bishop who has been on hunger strike for more than three weeks has been admitted to hospital after he lost consciousness. Luiz Flavio Cappio has been fasting for 23 days in protest at an irrigation project involving the diversion of South America's fourth largest river. On Wednesday Brazil's Supreme Court annulled a ruling halting the plan.

Bishop Cappio and other protesters say it will damage the environment and serve only the interests of the rich. The Brazilian government says more than 12 million people will benefit from the project on the Sao Francisco river. A lower court had originally suspended work over alleged irregularities in the approval of the $2bn (£1bn) project. But the Supreme Court overturned that ruling by a margin of six votes to three. Bishop Cappio, 61 - a prominent opponent of the scheme - began his hunger strike on 27 November.

Water from the river would be used to irrigate north-eastern Brazil Both the Vatican and the Brazilian Council of Bishops have been in negotiations with the bishop in an attempt to end his protest, citing his own safety as a factor. He was said to be developing health problems. A Church spokesman, Roberto Malvezzi, told the Associated Press news agency that Bishop Cappio had passed out on hearing about the Supreme Court decision. He was revived but hours later slipped into semi-consciousness, Mr Malvezzi added.

The most immediate impact of the latest court decision is to intensify the dilemma for the government over the hunger strike, says the BBC's Gary Duffy in Sao Paulo. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is a keen supporter of the project, which would bring water through 700km (435 miles) of canals to people and farmers in the north-eastern region of the country, where he was born.

Environmental activists say the project would badly affect biodiversity and possibly the navigability of the river. The Supreme Court disagreed and said the project could proceed. But the court did not rule on the alleged irregularities in the project's approval process, and work on the dam can only go ahead until the court decides on the merits of the case at a later date. If the court decides against the plan, it could be shelved for a second time.

No comments: