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Where The River Runs Through in National Geographic Picture Stories
aaron vincent elkaim
Jun 17, 2018

The world’s fourth-largest dam will flood some of the land that indigenous tribes have lived on for centuries.


BY DANIEL STONE

The story of the tropics has always been the story of fragility. And the rainforests are the lungs of the Earth. The way they breathe affects the climate, the weather, and every human alive.

So what happens when development comes to the Amazon? When trees are cut and roads are paved and dams are built? Photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim has spent a career telling the stories of indigenous people and ancient places threatened by development. In 2014, he made his first trip to the northern Brazilian state of Pará to witness how the Belo Monte dam being built on the Xingu River would affect the more than 25,000 indigenous people whose lives depend on the land.
The Brazilian government has plans for as many as 40 more dams in the area to speed development and accelerate the country’s economy. But Elkaim sees the barriers to the Xingu river as disruptions to the people who have spent centuries living off the land and protecting it for future generations. “We’ve made a lot of headway in terms of reducing deforestation in the area,” says Elkaim. “But for me, building this dam is a symbol not of protecting the future, but of destroying it.”


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Amazon Tribes Stand Up for Their Survival
The world’s fourth-largest dam will flood some of the land that indigenous tribes have lived on for centuries.