World Bank funding hits Brazilian Indians
DESPITE being warned about the pitiable plight of the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indians in northwest Brazil, the World Bank (WB) did not stop to consider the effect on the tribals of a road construction project it was financing in the region. And now, unfortunately, the warnings are coming true.
The tribals, whose numbers have declined from 1,500 in 1981 to approximately 300 today, are one of the few groups who remain opposed to logging. They came into the limelight in 1985, when Brazilian rubber tapper Chico Mendes, who was later murdered by a landowner, sent a letter to WB, protesting the damage they were suffering as a result of the project.
Mendes said the project had sparked off a boom that was destroying small communities of Indians and rubber tappers and resulting in largescale clearance of the rainforest. The protest led to the cancellation of a World Bank loan for the first time.
The Bank recognises that consultation with affected populations and local NGOs have been "limited at best". It nevertheless negotiated another loan for $167 million in April 1992, for a project whose main objective was to rectify the defects of the earlier proposal.