Assassination of Nicinha, Jirau dam area, Rondônia, Brazil

Nicinha was a leader of the MAB fighting for the rights of the people displaced by the Jirau dam, denouncing the effects of the dam on fishing activity in the Madeira River. She was killed on January 7, 2016.


Nicinha was a leader of the MAB fighting for the rights of the people displaced by the Jirau dam, denouncing the effects of the dam on fishing activity in the Madeira River. In 2011, the "ribeirinha" community of fisherfolk of Mutum Paraná, in the district of Porto Velho, upstream from the city of Porto Velho on the Madeira River, near Abuna on the border with Bolivia, was displaced because of flooding from the reservoir of the hydroelectric dam of Jirau, owned by Energia Sustentável do Brasil (ESBR). The community was in theory relocated in a place called Nova Mutum Paraná, a housing project for up to six thousand inhabitants, meant for people displaced. The relocation process did not go well - some of the houses were commercialized  in favour of other people. Faced with a precarious situation, a group of families affected by the dam, occupied empty houses in Nova Mutum Paraná, in 2014. The settlement, that already suffered from water logging and lack of drinkable water, was submerged by a terrible flood along the whole Madeira River in 2014. In this context of adversities and injustices, Nilce de Souza Magalhães, better known as Nicinha, became a local leader of the MAB, the Brazilian movemement of "atingidos por barragens", those affected by dams. She had arrived in Porto Velho 50 years before, as a child from a seringueiro family in Acre. Together with two colleagues, Lurdilane Gomes da Silva (Ludma) and Iza Cristina Bello (Índia), they formed a Comissão de Defesa da Ocupação, and with help from the attorney general (Ministério Público) of the state of  Rondônia, some local politicians and the MAB they confronted the firms controllings the dams, defending the rights of affected families. Over the years several claims were made, thanks to the leadership of fisher folks who participated in public hearings and demonstrations pointing out the serious impacts made on fishing activity in the Madeira River. The accusations led to two civil investigations carried out by the Federal and State Public Prosecution offices. One is regarding the non-implementation of the state’s program to support fishing activity. The second investigation of a more criminal nature points to the data manipulation in monitoring reports of fishing activity in the Madeira River.

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Basic Data
NameAssassination of Nicinha, Jirau dam area, Rondônia, Brazil
SitePorto Velho
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsDisplaced fisherfolk from the Jirau dam in Porto Velho fought to get a better deal, with support from the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens. Those from Mutum Paraná were to be displaced to Nova Mutum. This resettlement programme failed. One of leaders of the displaced, Nicinha, was cruelly killed in January 2016.

The reservoir is planned to be 258 km², and the total capacity of the plant 3.750MW,[1]. The plant belongs to the much larger "Complexo do Rio Madeira". Its construction is led by the consortium "ESBR - Energia Sustentável do Brasil", with participation of Suez Energy (60%), Eletrosul (20%) and Chesf (20%).[2]
Level of Investment (in USD)3,128,000,000 [10 billion reais]
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population6,000
Start Date2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesEnergia Sustentável do Brasil from Brazil
GDF Suez (GDF Suez) from France
Eletrosul Centrais Elétricas S/A from Brazil
Suez Energy South America Participações Ltda. (ENGIE) from France
Camargo Correa Investimentos em Infra-Estrutura S/A from Brazil
Companhia Hidrelétrica do São Francisco (Chesf) from Brazil
Relevant government actorsMinisterio Público
International and Financial InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil
Banco do Brasil from Brazil
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMAB, Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Occupation of houses, for displaced people
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Accidents, Malnutrition, Deaths
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Court decision (undecided)
Violent targeting of activists
Nicinha was killed on January 7, 2016
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The Jirau dam was built, the displaced fisherfolk complained, one of their main leaders was killed. The two killers are known and might be brought to court in 2017.
Sources and Materials

ESBR - Technical data
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[1] Corpo de Nicinha é encontrado após cinco meses desaparecido. Publicado em qua, 22/06/2016
[click to view]

[2] Militantes do MAB realizam ato para denunciar violência em Rondônia, 22 Dec. 2016
[click to view]

[3] MAB - Nicinha’s body is identified by DNA testing
[click to view]

[4] MAB - Ludma and India, MAB militants of Rondônia, are honored in Rio de Janeiro
[click to view]

Media Links

Saudades Mutum-Paraná, photographs of the flooded settlement
[click to view]

Mutum até Debaixo D'Água
[click to view]

Other Documents

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Ludma and India Source: MAB - Ludma and India, MAB militants of Rondônia, are honored in Rio de Janeiro.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorJoan Martinez Alier, ICTA-UAB
Last update09/05/2018