The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre had the opportunity to meet and talk with communities affected by the Rio Doce tragedy in Mariana and Gesteira/Barra Longa one year after it happened. The tragedy took place on 5 November, 2015 and was caused by the Fundão dam burst, owned by Samarco, a joint venture of Vale and BHP Billiton. At least 19 people were killed, and the burst has been described as the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.
During the Rio de Gente seminar, organized by Greenpeace on 31 October and 1st November 2016, the Centre interviewed two great women leaders who briefly discussed the socio-environmental impacts caused by the tragedy.
In a moving and profound interview, Shirley Krenak, a Krenak leadership in the region of Regência, spoke of how her people were hit by the tragedy completely changing the Krenak way of life. They can no longer exercise their culture and religion in the same way as before because the river is polluted: they can not fish, swim, nor engage in recreational activities with children or religious practices. She recalled that the Krenak having been fighting for years against the announced Doce River tragedy that is a result of mining. Letícia Oliveira, leadership of the Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens-MAB (Movement of People Affected by Dams), commented on the responsibility of the companies involved in the case, claiming that truly think it was a crime.
Both claimed that a year after the tragedy very little was actually done to respond to the needs and violated rights of the affected populations. There were allegations ranging from lack of compensation, problems related to the fact that companies are responsible for deciding who should be considered or not affected, basic human rights violated. And the mud keeps flowing, Shirley said.
Brazil: Centre interviews Shirley Krenak, Krenak leadership, about the impacts of the Doce River tragedy
Author: Julia Mello Neiva, Senior Brazil, Portugal & Portuguese-speaking Africa Researcher & Representative, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
[In her interview given in Mariana, 31 October 2016, Shirley comments on the impacts of the Fundão dam busrting to the Krenak people]
For more information on the lawsuits against the companies, see here.