UN hears denounces of people affected in Mariana

Members of the Working Group that discusses Business and Human Rights at the United Nations (UN) were in Mariana (MG), on the afternoon of Saturday (12), to listen to those […]

Members of the Working Group that discusses Business and Human Rights at the United Nations (UN) were in Mariana (MG), on the afternoon of Saturday (12), to listen to those affected by the disaster of the Fundão dam, owned by Samarco Mining SA – company controlled by Vale and BHP Billiton. 

Photo of the meeting with people affected and UN Working Group

During the meeting organized by the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais, attended by representatives of the UN Pavel Selvanathan and Dante Pesce, people affected of the city of Barra Longa and district Bento Rodrigues, Paracatu de Baixo, Pedras,  Ponte da Gama and Campinas,  districts of Mariana, denounced the human rights violations and the slow pace of Samarco to solve basic and immediate problems.

Committees of People Affected by Mariana reported the negligence of the company. “It was solidarity that saved our lives,” said Lucia, affected in Paracatu, who also spoke on the situation of families who are in hotels. “Seniors are losing their memory, young people who were before quiet are now changing behavior, children are getting hurt,” she denounced.

Those affected expect from Samarco to move families lodged in hotels to rented houses until Christmas. The official schedule of the company provided that the withdrawal of all would be made until February 27.

Representatives of those affected of Barra Longa, organized within the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), presented with many pictures and various data of the damage caused by the mud of Fundão’s dam. The town, which has 6,800 inhabitants and registration of population since 1701, was surprised by the mud about 10 hours after the breakup.

“If an employee of Samarco came from Mariana with a megaphone in hand warning of the disaster he would arrive in time in Barra Longa and we would have saved a lot of things,” denounced Flavio Marcio from Barra Longa, city 70km from Mariana. He also stressed that the only notice given to the residents was at midnight on November 6:  the company ensured that the mud would not get until Barra Longa. The surprise was that the population did not prepare and destruction was total. 16 shops have serious structural damage, 22 with losses of stocks and of equipment and 11 stopped working. With disaster and chaos that has taken place, the general movement of these shops has fallen more than 50%, affecting all traders and threatening about 200 direct and indirect jobs.

In rural areas, the damage is also immense. About 60 producers lost productive capacity, down from 15% of the pastures and 70% of crop areas for livestock feed. “Between 5 and 7 November, the milk production fell from 25,000 liters per day to 10,000 liters. And this loss lasted for five days due to lack of roads and power, “said Mercia Paglioto also affected.

Besides these impacts, many families in the city of Barra Longa and in the countryside have lost their homes. Today, a total of 216 houses registered as affected, 10 were totally destroyed, 72 have structural damage and 3 are condemned by the Civil Defense. In addition, 78 families are homeless, more than 152 people are in 44 rented homes and 34 other families are at relatives.

Andréa Vasconcelos, also affected from Barra Longa, presented the problems caused by the mud in the health of families. “We have seen many cases of worsening in respiratory diseases, occurrence of conjunctivitis, itching and allergies of all kinds, stomach problems and other disorders because of the strong smell of mud and even burns and other wounds because of contact with the waste” reported Andrea.

In addition, significant change in the rhythm of life of the population caused acute worsening in cases of depression, panic disorder, alcoholism and emergence of new diseases in this area.

With all this, “Samarco said and continues saying that the ‘mud from the tailings is like any other mud'”, said Andrea outraged.

Flavio Marcio urged the UN representatives of the need of the people affected to be protagonist in the entire repair process. “MAB supports that a Recovery Plan for the basin of Rio Doce should include long-term actions that will really recover the Rio Doce. The whole society must be involved: the state must do their part, organizations of civil society must be heard and the people affected organized across the basin must be protagonists in the recovery process, “said Flavio.

For him, this whole tragedy and its consequences show the urgent need for Brazil to develop a legislation that guarantees the rights of people affected by dams, either to generate electricity, or of mineral tailings dams. “For this reason  MAB  defends the approval of a National Policy of Rights for Populations Affected by Dams,” concluded Flavio.

UN representatives were surprised by all reports and said they would recommend the Brazilian State to take effective measures to help the affected families. The final report of the visit will be presented next year in Geneva.

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| Publicado 21/12/2023 por Coletivo de Comunicação MAB PI

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