State of the art of the environmental disaster in Brazil

Dec 10, 2015 | written by:

During the last month, the entire world has been shocked by the dramatic terrorist events of Paris and those who have followed. And even if it is not an excuse, many other concurrencies have passed into background, appearing in newspapers days after.

The most striking news, which comes with a huge delay in our media, concerns the largest environmental disaster in decades in Brazil. For the first time, the powerful web took almost a month to be able to break the wall of silence created around the accident, publishing outrageous photos of a river of mud and tar that meets the blue of the ocean. November 5th, two dams of the mining company Samarco, which contained toxic waste and scrap material for mining, collapsed, spilling 62 million cubic meters of toxic sludge into the river Rio Doce destroying everything along the way, until arriving at the mouth, in the Atlantic Ocean, on November 20th.

The evaluation is eleven dead, twelve missing, plus a biblical death of fish and other wildlife creatures and the even more serious and incalculable damage to farming, livestock, forests, fields and streams. Over two thousand people were left without drinking water. Indios are crying since their livelihood has disappeared: the river, for them regarded as a sacred place. It’s the same for fishermen, forced to emigrate to the city with their families in search of a new job. But also the whole world cries seeing the images of devastation coming from those places, aware that it will take decades to restore at least part of the natural ecosystem.

With the delay of the news, it comes the first truths hidden for years by the Samarco, controlled by Brazilian mining giant Vale and the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, who chose this region cause of its richness in minerals: here is produced 10% of the iron across the nation. That morning of November 5th, no alarm rang to alert since a security plan existed, but it was never put into practice by the company. Moreover, Brazilian authorities knew that the dam was to risk failure. After one month Samarco is not able to give clear answers to explain what happened, but asked for a news blackout to displaced people. To note how the colossus over the years has financed political campaigns of various parliamentary and parties creating a serious conflict of interests between the company and who should be part of the Committee for restoration and preservation of river basin.

The company has now stated that the mud is not toxic, but pictures of the event and biologists and environmental experts disagree: to clarify the situation a group of Brazilian scientists is examining several water samples. What is certain however, is the fine of 250 million Real that Samarco will have to pay for the damage caused (a pittance compared to its annual revenue) and the risk that other areas of the planet can be affected by toxic river since Atlantic, with its flows, certainly will take pollutants anywhere.


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