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Story Publication logo September 14, 2023

At Risk of Being Blown Up To Build a Waterway, Pedral Do Lourenço Is Defended by Scientists and Traditional Communities on the Tocantins River (Portuguese)


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Land invasions of Indigenous territories in the Tocantins River area have grown more frequent as...


This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit InfoAmazonia. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our website is available in EnglishSpanishbahasa IndonesiaFrench, and Portuguese.

Image by Tiffany Higgins. Brazil, 2023.

Without an adequate study of the impacts and risks brought about by DNIT's plans to build the Tocantins-Araguaia waterway, communities and scientists warn of the destruction of 35 kilometers of the largest fish nursery upstream of the Tucuruí HPP on the Tocantins River.

The Tocantins-Araguaia waterway is a project that requires at least two and a half years of detonation work on the Pedral do Lourenço, an extensive rocky area in the middle of the Tocantins river. The detonations, according to the Environmental Impact Study and Environmental Impact Report (EIA-RIMA) commissioned by DNIT, would leave 35 km of the formation destroyed between the municipalities of Itupiranga and Nova Ipixuna, in Pará.

The explosions to carry out the work put at risk the survival of riverside populations and endemic species of fish and other animals such as the giant Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis expansa), the Araguaia dolphin (Inia araguaiaensis), and the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis).

Edir Augusto Dias, professor of geography at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA), classifies this rock complex as "the largest fish nursery on the Tocantins River above the Tucuru dam." During the flood season of the Amazon winter, between December and May, the Pedral's labyrinth of rocks reaches a depth of 80 meters.

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Geographer Edir Augusto Dias (UFPA). Image by Tiffany Higgins. Brazil, 2023.

In 2019, ichthyologists Alberto Akama, from the Goeldi Museum, and Leandro Sousa, from UFPA, carried out the first, and only, study of the area by diving up to 40 meters deep in the Pedral, in a location near Vila Tauiry. Even at half the depth of the river, the scientists identified 10 endangered fish: Baryancistrus niveatus, Baryancistrus longipinnis, Crenicichla cyclostoma, Crenicichla jegui, Lamonchthys parakana, Sartor tucuruiense, Scobinancistrus pariolipos, Teleocichla cinderella, and Paratrygon ayereba, with Baryancistrus longipinnis being an endemic fish, which only exists in the Pedral do Lourenço.

Two endangered species collected in 2019 at Pedral do Lourenço by ichthyologists Alberto Akama and Leandro Sousa. Above, Pseudacantichus pitanga; below, Crenicichla jegui. Images by Leandro Sousa.
Video by Tiffany Higgins. Brazil, 2023.
Video by Tiffany Higgins. Brazil, 2023.

In the images captured in July, barges sail close to the quilombos in Baião. Image by Pablo Luiz Costa/InfoAmazonia. Brazil, 2023.