Brazilian priest on hunger strike to stop water-diversion scheme

Roman Catholic bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio has been fasting for 10 days in a modest chapel 600 feet from Brazil’s Sao Francisco River, aiming to halt a massive water-diversion project. The $1.8 billion government plan involves building hundreds of miles of canals and other infrastructure to send water from the 1,700-mile river to drought-afflicted regions in Brazil’s northeast. Cappio and his supporters say most of the water will benefit wealthy farmers growing export crops like grapes and flowers, with only a tiny percentage allocated to millions of rural poor. They fear the waterworks will be the final blow to the Sao Francisco — already extensively damaged by riverside deforestation, pollution, sewage, and hydroelectric dams — and want the government to clean up the river. Brazil’s Lula da Silva administration has offered to delay the project, but Cappio says only scrapping it entirely will stop his fast. “We will only sit down at the negotiating table once the specter of the current project is gone,” he said Wednesday.