Brazil: water contradictions.

Fayanas E. E. Brazil:water contradictions.

Rebellión: Social Ecology 10-03-2011.

Brazil is the greatest world water reserve with 13% of the planet. This is unevenly distributed in its territory and 70% is in the Amazon region, 15% in the Midwest, 6% in the south and 3% in the Northeast. Despite this abundance, are forty-five million Brazilians who have no access to potable water, that is more than 25% of its population. It is the most polluting and polluted country in South America,  being mainly this pollution  chemical and industrial with large quantities in the waters of mercury from gold mining. Only part of Eastern Europe and China exceed Brazil’s levels of water pollution.

There are more than two thousand dams in the country, which are exploited hydroelectric  about six hundred twenty-five. Hundred thirty-nine producing over 30 MW, other two hundred and thirty have an average power between 1 / 30 MW and one hundred fifty-three under 1 MW. However, about of 1,530 small dams are abandoned. Lula’s Brazilian government introduced a new water plan on the horizon since 2015. It plans to build more than 494 new large dams. The Ministry of Mines supports the construction of fifty large reservoirs and in the coming years, others seventy. The Brazilian government never define how many people are affected by these projects, but it is estimated that more than one hundred thousand families who must leave their homes in the event that take place all these projects. The existing dams  have displaced over a million people, many of them not receiving any compensation. About 34,000 km2 of farmland have been inundated by them. The 79% of Brazil’s electricity comes from hydroelectric sources, one of the largest exporters of this energy in the world. This abundance of cheap energy is used for the production of aluminum, iron, paper, cellulose and other products  that use energy-intensive to be produced, and that cause heavy pollution. It is understood the interest of China for this country, because it guarantees much of the raw materials that it need for its development.

The Amazon basin is the largest water reserve and the most important area of ​​biodiversity on Earth, is the lung of the world. The Amazon has been reduced by 9% in the eighty decade with a total of 21 million hectares, being the decade of more deforest.  In the nineties have been about eleven million hectares deforested. We describe the situation very worrying, hoping that this trend to the destruction will be slow because  put in crisis the world.

San Francisco river

Another landmark river for brazilians is the San Francisco, it born in the State of Minas Gerais where it picks up 75% of its flow, through the Planat and go to the Bay by the northeast, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean, between the states of  Alaguas and Sergipe. During hundreds of years, millions of brazilians living in the arid lands of Northeast Brazil have watched as the San Francisco river, was his salvation by the contribution of its waters. This is a major river which was named “river of national integration” because it crosses several regions. Unify states as the richest in the southeast, with the poorer north. Crosses areas of different cultures: from industrial districts, population, mostly white and middle class, indigenous areas,  african descent and farmers. San Francisco River has a length of 2,800 km, is seen as the only way to put end to the drought and the exodus of many people who have made this region one of the poorest in the country. The San Francisco, called “the Nile of Brazil” is surrounded by a vast expanse of sand and low forest, occupy a special place in the hearts of Brazilians. The drought affecting the region since the nineteenth century have forced millions of peasants to migrate to the southern cities such as Sao Paulo in search of work and a better future. The Brazilian government want to finish with this situation.

It has authorized a budget of 1700 million dollars to build two canals of hundred kilometres long that transfer water from this river basin, the second largest in the country, to the drier parts of the interior. This is the first phase of a much larger project, which eventually bring back to this area, water providing of the Amazon basin in order to fix and stabilize its population and not have to emigrate. The purpose of this transfer of the river San Francisco is to carry the water to a semi-arid area like the Northeast, whose population suffers from shortages during the increasingly long periods of drought. According to the Brazilian government these works will benefit  twelve million people in 391 municipalities in four states ,Pernambuco, Paraiba, Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará.

Opponents of this water project are environmental groups and even business interests, arguing that it is unnecessary and too expensive a project of this kind. They are in favor of building more reservoirs, cisterns, wells and aqueducts, which in their opinion are more effective and cheaper, due to the pollution and deforestation that generates the transfer. The problem of the Brazilian Northeast is not a watershortage, as well as how to manage it, because they do not finish water projects that are started. This project of the Brazilian government as most similar projects, only serves to exacerbate already existing conflicts over control of land and water in this area, where landlords make and unmake at his pleasure and will they be the big beneficiaries. The Brazilian government’s argument for its realization, is that in this way helps the poor. However, opponents of the project deny such aid, they argue that much or almost all the water actually will go to irrigation of farms producing fruit inside the region and shrimp farmers, two of export activities fastest growing in the area, but also too for incresing surface for growing plants for the production of agro fuels.

Mata Machado, chairman of the San Francisco River Basin states that the transfer will not solve the problem of drought. Instead, concentrate the water where there is, Casthao reservoir in the State of Ceará, where will be transferred the 85% of the water. The project does not carry water to the population dispersed or small towns. The transfer is a project of the elite of Ceará, for economic development.The most serious accusation is that this project aims to use public money to favor contractors, the agriculture business, privatize and concentrated in few hands the waters of the Northeast through the large reservoirs. It ensures that 71% of the water that will transfer away from the areas most in need and that 87% of these waters will be used for economic activities highly water-consuming: the irrigated fruit sector, plants for the production agro-fuels, shrimp and steel, all production for export.

Another example of unsustainable water development is that the construction plan of Paquicamba dam on the Xingu River, major tributary of the Amazon. This reservoir is one of the more larger in the world. Its purpose is to produce enough energy to build a number of steel mills, for supplying the Chinese market, making Brazil a supplier of raw materials that China lacks, not only minerals, as well as developed product. The steel company has a joint venture Brazilian / Chinese. These two projects cause the destruction of an important part of the jungle where the indigenous inhabitants of this area will suffer the consequences, because it changes their lives without receiving anything in return. It is a clear example of environmental destruction without a benefit to its inhabitants, and unbridled economic development and conservation outside the logic in an area vital to the ecological balance of the earth.

Amazon river

The Amazon region covers about seven million km2 of dense vegetation. This forest situated to north of South America, is spread over the territories of Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and a small area of ​​Ecuador. The average annual rainfall in the region ranges from 2.000/3000 mm. The Amazon River, the second longest in the world with 6275 km, rises in the Andes, more specifically on the slopes of Nevado of Mismi to 5,600 meters. It has hundreds of tributaries that run through the basin. The flow rate is between 31 and 141millones liters per second at its mouth, carrying some three million tons of sediment each day. Its estuary is 240 km wide and 320 km offshore can still find remnants of Amazonian freshwater.

The Amazon has a major natural reserves, the biodiversity makes it the largest worldwide ecosystem. Its rainy tropical climate is ideal for 60,000 species of trees that can be found in its territory with plants that can exceed one hundred meters high. Its fauna is rich, you can find hundreds of types of mammals, nothing comparable to the 1,500 different fish and birds and two million insect species. There are still a large number of reptiles, amphibians, and microorganisms to be classified.



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