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Supreme Court vetoes bill that authorizes gold digging without environmental impact studies

State senate had approved the bill with urgency

Credit: Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado/via CC BY 2.0

20 Feb 21

Supreme Court vetoes bill that authorizes gold digging without environmental impact studies

Justice Alexandre de Moraes of the Supreme Court (STF) ordered the suspension of Law 1.453/2021, which authorizes mining activity in the state of Roraima with the use of mercury and without an environmental impact assessment. After being approved by the state senate in January, the governor ratified the bill shortly after, on February 8.

Moraes’ decision decided after an lawsuit filed by the party Rede Sustentabilidade (ADI 6672), which denounces the unconstitutionality of the measure, as it contradicts the federal law, which allows simplified licensing only for low-impact activities, and violates the fundamental right to an ecologically balanced environment (Article 225). The party also mentioned the manifestation of dozens of indigenous organizations against the project, including the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CRI), which has protested against the measure since its presentation.

Petrobras takes over five oil blocks in the Amazon River bought by Total in 2013

Environmentalists fear that this will increase the pressure for licensing

Credit: @ANDREBANIWA/Twitter

10 Feb 21

Petrobras takes over five oil blocks in the Amazon River bought by Total in 2013

Previously bought by French company Total, Petrobras is now taking over five oil blocks located in the Amazon River gorge, with authorization from the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP), as stated in the Union Official Gazette.

The company decided to take over due to the difficulty with the environmental licensing process of the blocks, located “in one of the most sensitive areas of the region and with extreme environmental wealth,” says an article in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. Total bought the blocks in an auction held in 2013 and never received the license for exploration. In 2018, for the fourth time, environmental agency Ibama denied the company’s request to drill in the basin. With Petrobras taking over, environmentalists fear that there will be greater pressure for the release of the blocks. 

Illegal gold digging pollutes waterfalls and rivers in Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Lands

Sete Quedas waterfall waters polluted with mining waste

Credit: @karibuxi/ Reproduction/Twitter

9 Feb 21

Illegal gold digging pollutes waterfalls and rivers in Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Lands

Indigenous peoples of the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land continue to struggle in defense of their territory, which suffers from the advance of illegal gold digging. As reported by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, pictures taken in January show the critical state of the Sete Quedas and Urucá waterfalls, near the municipality of Uiramutã, polluted by mining waste.

The land is close to the Army’s 6th Border Platoon and, despite Operation Verde Brasil 2, which assigned the military to combat environmental crimes, the violators remain unpunished. “We have already denounced them, we called for an assembly, we made documents, maps, we delivered photographs, but so far nothing”, declared to the newspaper the vice-coordinator of the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), Edinho Batista de Souza.

As an aggravating factor, the leadership cites President Jair Bolsonaro’s declared incentive to mining on indigenous lands – as in the case of Bill 191/2020, which is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives – and Bill 201/2020, of the Roraima government, which authorizes mining activity in the state “without prior study”.

Ibama caves in to pressure from Belo Monte dam and goes back to liberating minimum flow to the Xingu River

Order to increase the flow tried to mitigate socio-environmental impacts

Credit: Federal Government/PAC/via O eco

8 Feb 21

Ibama caves in to pressure from Belo Monte dam and goes back to liberating minimum flow to the Xingu River

After a power struggle between shareholders of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) and environmental agency Ibama, Norte Energia, the concessionaire responsible for the project, may once again release a lower volume of water from its reservoir for the stretch known as Volta Grande do Xingu, in Pará state, according to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. Under pressure, the regulating agency did not maintain the decision, in force until February 10th, which made the hydroelectric plant provisionally increase the amount of water destined to the Xingu River, aiming at mitigating the environmental impacts on the riverside populations caused by the dam.

The difference between the new flow agreed upon and the one previously demanded by Ibama is big: in March, the plant will make 4,000 cubic meters per second; the authorities were asking for 14,200 m³/s. The reason is the already notorious information that “there are no conditions to maintain life in the river”, as the article says, with the adoption of the measures defended by Norte Energia.

Norte Energia signed an Environmental Commitment Term, in which the company commits to implement 15 new measures of environmental compensation, inspection and support to the local population – an investment of R$ 157.5 million reais over three years. The text also requires the concessionaire to present, until December 31, 2021, complementary studies on the river’s flow and environmental quality.

After the news, the Federal Public Prosecution (MPF) of Pará requested Ibama to provide technical data to support what it qualified as a “sudden change” in the flow of the plant. According to a note from the MPF, the agency wants answers about “the technical choice for adopting mitigation measures instead of adopting measures to prevent impacts, such as those already adopted by Ibama, with the definition of higher average flows”.

Bolsonaro administration authorizes 56 new pesticides, totalling 935 in two years

In two years, the government authorized 32% of the agrochemicals currently available in the country

Credit: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

11 Jan 21

Bolsonaro administration authorizes 56 new pesticides, totalling 935 in two years

The Ministry of Agriculture published in the Official Federal Gazette the release of 56 new pesticide products – 51 generic and 5 new substances, according to a survey made by the G1 news channel. Of these, 37 are chemical pesticides and only 19 are biological, which can be used in commercial crops and in organic food production, for example.

Since the beginning of its mandate, the Bolsonaro administration has broken records in the number of agrochemicals allowed for agriculture. In 2020, there were 461 new registers, just behind the historic 474 mark, reached in 2019, according to the report.

Amazon deforestation threatens São Paulo’s water supply

According to a scientist, the drought is a result of the systematic destruction of the Amazon

Credit: Lucas Landau/Greenpeace

4 Jan 21

Amazon deforestation threatens São Paulo’s water supply

Since October 2020, the Cantareira System, one of the country’s largest water reservoirs and the main responsible for supplying the metropolitan region of the State of São Paulo, has presented a storage rate of 35.6%, the lowest volume recorded since December 2013, a period that preceded one of the high points of the chronic Brazilian water crisis. According to scientists, the deforestation in the Amazon is linked to the lack of rainfall throughout the year.

This cause-and-effect relationship had already been explained by the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe) with the report “The climatic future of the Amazon” (2014). The study shows that the removal of vegetation can cause the decline of humidity-laden winds that come from the ocean to the continent. Geologist Pedro Côrtes explained the phenomenon. “You destroy trees with long roots and exchange them for grass, with short roots, which does not have the drainage capacity to reach the deep aquifers of the [Amazon region]. The result is a reduction in the atmosphere’s humidity, while the winds continue to blow [to the south], but increasingly dry”.

Côrtes also pointed out that other important reservoirs in the country face the same problem and emphasize that this is a historical problem. “This model of deforestation in the Amazon is 50 years old. It began in the 70s, with the Transamazon highway, and there is no longer justification for its maintenance. There are scientific works from the late 1980s that already warned that it could generate environmental impacts, including a reduction in the volume of rainfall. Today, we are reaping the consequences”, he said.

Shareholders want to drop environmental agency decision to increase water flow from Belo Monte dam

Measure caused by environmental and social concerns could hurt corporate profits

Credit: Marcos Corrêa/PR/via Fotos públicas

15 Dec 20

Shareholders want to drop environmental agency decision to increase water flow from Belo Monte dam

Shareholders of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant are trying to win the support of the federal government to reverse Ibama’s, the environmental control agency decision that would force Norte Energia, the corporation responsible for the plant, to release a greater volume of water to flow from its reservoir into the stretch known as the Volta Grande do Xingu, in Pará State. Valid until the end of 2020, the decision aims to mitigate the environmental impacts on the riverside populations caused by the hydroelectric dam, since the region suffered a historic drought this year. According to Reuters agency, the shareholders – who fear that the measure will be extended to 2021 – have already met with the Ministry of Mines and Energy and there is an expectation that the government will contribute to the negotiations given the participation of the state-owned Eletrobrás in the project.

While the businessmen maintain that the decision could seriously compromise the hydroelectric plant’s power generation, Norte Energia had its request for revocation of the new hydroelectric program denied by the Federal Court, on the grounds that Ibama, responsible for Belo Monte’s environmental licensing, pointed out “worsening environmental conditions in the area” due to the reduced flow, which “leads to the possibility of changing the conditions of the operating license”.

The definitive increase in the flow of water released by the hydroelectric plant is still open. Reuters reported that Ibama will conclude the analysis of complementary studies on the impacts of Belo Monte delivered by Norte Energia.

Afro-Brazilian quilombola suffer with electrical blackout in Amapá State

Population is affected by water shortage and lack of proper access to medical services

Credit: Conaq/Divulgação

19 Nov 20

Afro-Brazilian quilombola suffer with electrical blackout in Amapá State

Since the beginning of November, the state of Amapá has been experiencing a power blackout that affects 13 of the state’s 16 municipalities, aggravating the vulnerability of the 258 quilombola communities [Afro-brazilian traditional communities] identified in the state, according to a number estimated by the National Coordination of Rural Black Quilombola Communities (Conaq). “If it is already bad in the city, worse in the community. There are people who are hungry, there are people who are sick, there are people who cannot drink water, there are several adverse situations,” the National Coordinator of Conaq, Núbia Cristina, reported to the organization’s website.

The quilombolas have suffered from the cutoff of the water supply — with no energy, no water pumping — and the consequent contamination by the consumption of non-potable water, obtained out of artesian wells and rivers, as residents told the Jornal de Brasília. The storage of food has also been compromised, spoiling meat and other items, and the blackout has made it difficult to buy food from local traders, with prices rising.

The blackout has also aggravated the Covid-19 pandemic among the quilombola population. Without access to ambulances, which do not reach the quilombola territories, the community has mobilized itself to transport contaminated people to health centers, without any kind of protection.

The critical situation experienced in the communities has also killed an important local leadership, Sérgio Clei de Almeida, president of the Quilombos Association of San Francisco de Matapí. The 50 year old leader died on November 18, trying to re-establish the electricity supply to the community of Torrão do Matapí.

After Belo Monte dam, Xingu River faces historical drought in Altamira (PA)

The construction of the dam may have worsened the drought

Credit: JL1 – TV Liberal/Reproduction

27 Oct 20

After Belo Monte dam, Xingu River faces historical drought in Altamira (PA)

The stretch of the Xingu River in the city of Altamira, Pará State, which is part of the main reservoir of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant, is experiencing “one of the greatest droughts in the last five decades”, according to the local website A Voz do Xingu. Residents in the region, known as Volta Grande do Xingu, are facing difficulties in fishing and sailing due to the reduction of water volume and also because the sand banks that formed on the riverbed. “The fish fled, there is no way to fish, it dried up a lot after the construction of this plant there, in Belo Monte”, said fisherman Manoel da Silva. The article also states that even those who moved to farming as an alternative to fishing are not managing to sell their produce, as they are practically isolated without river boat transportation. A report from TV Liberal, affiliated with Globo in Pará, showed the city’s river stretch with stranded vessels and the encounter between the Altamira stream and the Xingu river, with its navigation interrupt due to the low waters.

Minister of Environment nullifies his own order to give amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest Destroyers

Decision came after strong pressure from MPF and environmentalists

Credits: Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senado/CC BY 2.0

4 Jun 20

Minister of Environment nullifies his own order to give amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest Destroyers

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, has nullified his own order 4.410/2020, issued on April 6th, that recognized as legal properties the deforested areas located inside Permanent Conservation Areas (APPs) in the Atlantic Rainforest. The minister retrieved his proposal after strong pressure from Justice and civil society. On May 5th, the Federal Public Prosecution Office filed a lawsuit asking for the nullifying of Salles’s order due to its illegal nature and the threat posed to the biome, which is considered by environmentalists as the most vulnerable in the country.

Public prosecution asks for the nullification of order that gives amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest destroyers

Salles order violates Atlantic Rainforest Law

Crédito: Welington Pedro de Oliveira/Fotos Públicas

6 May 20

Public prosecution asks for the nullification of order that gives amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest destroyers

The Federal Public Prosecution Office (MPF) filed a lawsuit at a Federal District court to nullify the order 4.410/2020, which implements a recommendation by the Federal Attorney’s Office (AGU) that recognizes as consolidated areas the Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs) at the Atlantic Rainforest that were deforested until 2008. This allows landowners to resume production in their properties. The order uses the Forest Code, a general law, to hurt the Atlantic Rainforest Law, a special law, that forbids the occupation of deforested areas inside APPs.The Brazilian Association of Environmental Public Prosecutors (Abrampa) and the NGO SOS Atlantic Rainforest were also signatories of the lawsuit.

Minister of the Environment signs amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest destroyers

Environmentalists say that Salles measure brings legal uncertainty

Crédito: Palácio do Planalto/Carolina Antunes/PR/CC BY 2.0

6 Apr 20

Minister of the Environment signs amnesty to Atlantic Rainforest destroyers

Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, issued order 4.410/2020, following a recommendation from the Federal Attorney’s Office (AGU) that recognizes as consolidated areas the Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs) at the Atlantic Rainforest that were deforested. This allows landowners to resume production in their properties. The measure responds to an old demand by farmer’s organizations and provides an amnesty to rural landowners responsible for the destruction of crucial areas of the biome until 2008. The order uses the Forest Code, a general law, to hurt the Atlantic Rainforest Law, a special legislation that forbids the occupation of deforested areas in the biome. The Climate Observatory (Observatório do Clima), an environmental coalition, published a technical note calling entities to question the minister’s decision in the judicial sphere.

Mario Mantovani, the director of the NGO SOS Atlantic Rainforest, in an interview for Folha de S. Paulo, said that Minister Salles is creating a problem not only to the forest but to the agribusiness, “who will face more pressure and people saying that they want to destroy the forest”. The public prosecutor Alexandre Gaio, from southern Parana state, said that the order causes judicial insecurity and threatens the region’s water security, since the ones responsible for the deforestation will no longer be obliged to recover the vegetation on river sides.

Drought puts southern Brazil in state of climate emergency

Crops affected by the droughts in Rio Grande do Sul State

Crédito: Handout/Defesa Civil do RS

3 Apr 20

Drought puts southern Brazil in state of climate emergency

Since August 2019, Santa Catarina, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul, the three states of Brazil’s South region, have faced a severe drought, with social and economic effects. In March 2020, the volume of rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul was 28 mm — a quarter of the historical average — and 299 municipalities declared a state of emergency. In Santa Catarina, the average rainfall was 550mm below the historical average. In Paraná, the flow of the Iguaçu falls is five times lower than normal. The impacts on corn, fruit, rice and soybean crops have been significant, with losses of 20% to 35% of harvests. Eduardo Assad, a researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), says that the drought in the region is directly linked to global warming.

São Paulo faces harsher droughts and storms due to climate change

Climatologists say that this trend will worsen if nothing is done

Crédito: BertonhaFB/iStock

4 Mar 20

São Paulo faces harsher droughts and storms due to climate change

A data analysis, published by newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, shows that the climate in São Paulo (SP), Brazil’s largest city, is 3ºC hotter when compared to the 1960s. The rainy and drought seasons are also more intense, according to information from the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet).

Until 1980, the city had only experienced one event in which it rained more than 100mm in a single day. Between 2010 and 2020, such events happened six times. The longer droughts in the 1960s used to last only 12 days. In 2012, the city experienced a 51 days streak without rain. The dry period was partially responsible for the severe supply crisis the city faced in 2014, which left many households without water for months.

Climatologists heard by the newspaper expect the trend to continue and be aggravated in the next decades. According to the scientists, the extreme droughts and rains happen because of global climate change, but are also influenced by the city’s urbanization process. With over 12 million inhabitants, they believe São Paulo will also face health issues related to climate change, such as an increase in mosquitoes that transmit diseases and heart and respiratory conditions.

Torrential rains in Brazil’s Southeast point to the effects of climate change

Inpe fala em “alteração do ciclo hidrológico” brasileiro

Crédito: Ranimiro Lotufo Neto/iStock

13 Feb 20

Torrential rains in Brazil’s Southeast point to the effects of climate change

Since early January, the Southeast states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santos and Minas Gerais have been hit by a series of torrential rains. On February 9, it rained the equivalent of 42% of what was expected for the entire month. In Minas Gerais State alone, 100 cities were put on alert level , 59 people died and 45,000 were displaced.

According to Paulo Nobre, coordinator of the Brazilian Model of Terrestrial System (BESM), of the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), the rains were not episodic and point to the effects of climate change. “In Brazil, the change in the hydrological cycle is happening now. It is not a thing for 2100”, he said, in an interview with National Geographic Brasil.

If the authorities and government don’t act immediately, Nobre believes that the North, Northeast and part of the Midwest regions will suffer from reduced rainfall and longer droughts, which may increase the number of forest fires. “In the South and Southeast, the tendency of the biomes represented there is that more extreme and lasting droughts also occur, interspersed with very rainy periods”, he projects.

“Take a shit every other day”

Journalists had asked bolsonaro about sustainable development

Crédito: Jornal da Globo/Reprodução

9 Aug 19

“Take a shit every other day”

In a meeting with reporters when leaving the presidential palace in Brasilia, president Bolsonaro created  (another) social media frenzy with an unexpected and coarse answer to a question about the economy and the environment. A journalist asked: “President, is it possible to grow with environmental preservation? How?”, to what Bolsonaro replied: “Yes, of course. You only have to eat a little less. When you talk about environmental pollution, all you have to do is to only take a shit every other day. This will improve our lives a lot, all right?”.

262 agrochemicals approved by Bolsonaro’s administration

Government is releasing agrochemicals at an unprecedented pace

Credit: Fernando Frazão/ Agência Brasil/via Fotos Públicas

31 Jul 19

262 agrochemicals approved by Bolsonaro’s administration

Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro’s administration accelerated the  release of 262 new pesticides and  agrochemicals, an unprecedented pace. Approximately ⅓ of the approved products contain  substances forbidden by the European Union, including Acephate and Atrazine which have been banned from the EU for more than 15 years.

The government also changed the classificatory system used for toxicity, now adopting one called GHS, which NGOs and experts say is weaker than current standards used in Brazil. The National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) published the new regulatory framework for the assessment of the risk of pesticides. The measure changes the way packaging presents the risks of using products.

The institution says that the criterion follows an “international” standard but admits that very toxic products may have a “softer” classification. As there are now six categories, instead of four, it will be more difficult for a product to be classified as “extremely toxic”. The packages will feature fewer images of “skulls” and more informative texts. Entities criticize the measure, saying that it may bring more risk to rural workers with low literacy.

Bolsonaro: “I'm standing out of the way for rural producers"

Bolsonaro during the launch of “Together for Araguaia” project

Crédito: Alan Santos/PR/via Agência Brasil

5 Jun 19

Bolsonaro: “I’m standing out of the way for rural producers”

On World Environment Day, president Bolsonaro chose to attend the inauguration ceremony of a consortium with state governments of Goias and Mato Grosso to fund and implement the revitalization of the Araguaia River Basin, in the central region of the country. In a speech during the ceremony, the president said that the river project was proof that Brazil cares about protecting the environment and that his first mission is “to not stand in the way of those who want to produce”. The Minister of  Environment, who also attended the ceremony, used the opportunity to praise the agribusiness sector, saying that they are a global example of how to produce in large scale with quality and respect to nature. He also again accused international organizations and other countries of wanting to  “dictate how Brazil should care for the environment”.

Approvals of dangerous agrochemicals boom

Over a hundred new agrochemicals already released in Bolsonaro’s government

Crédito: fotokostic/iStock

9 Apr 19

Approvals of dangerous agrochemicals boom

During a public hearing with specialised commissions at the National Congress, Tereza Cristina, Minister of Agriculture, detailed plans to release the use of dozens of new agrochemicals in Brazil, highlighting that the National Sanitation Agency (ANVISA) changed the process to make it ‘simpler’. 

She claimed that it was important to speed up authorizations to stop the use of smuggled/uncontrolled products, while also labelling as “misinformation” the scientific studies that indicated health and environmental risks of the newly authorized agrochemicals. In the first 100 days of Bolsonaro government, 152 new agrochemical products were officially approved by agricultural and sanitary agencies; on the day after the public hearing, another 31 products were approved, of which 16 were categorized as highly toxic by the sanitary authorities. She referred to the toxic products as “medicine for plants” and declared that most contamination cases happened due to individual mismanagement of the products. As an example, she mentioned that “sometimes the person smokes a cigarette while applying the chemical product and ends up ingesting it”.

Water governance at risk

National Water Agency is now managed by Regional Development Ministry

Crédito: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

2 Jan 19

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