Marcos Todt to contribute for Environmental Justice Atlas sharing Brazilian records
Doctoral student in the Social Sciences program, Marcos Todt started his collaboration with the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas), which features the socio-environmental conflicts from all over the world. He began his work by describing the Mina Guaíba, a project designed by a local company of Rio Grande do Sul, which is geared towards the production of mineral coal. Authorities are working on the environmental license for the project. “If approved, it will be Brazil’s largest open-pit coal mine,” Todt says. His contribution was accepted in June. He intends to share other projects that are potentially harmful to the environment.
In Todt’s view, Mina Guaíba will comprise an area larger than 4,000 ha in the cities of Charqueadas and Eldorado do Sul. Todt sees it as a socio-environmental conflict due to the existence of a conflict of interest involving social actors on the use of natural resources, that is, by the use of the land. “If the project is implemented, more than 70 families of small farmers, responsible for one of the largest agro ecological rice production in Brazil, will be forced out of their homes and so will the residents of some urban areas in the region. Indigenous communities will also be affected.” he says.
As Todt has reported in the environmental atlas, the impacts could lead to the contamination of water: its quality would be reduced and the local biodiversity would be lost. This would, among other things, contribute to global warming. “Under an ecological perspective, we are concerned about it because it has been designed for coal extraction (an estimated reserve of 166 million tons) in an area very close to the Delta Jacuí Park (Central Zone of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve) and the Jacuí River. The waters could be contaminated by heavy metals and other pollutants. In addition, he envisions that this could cause the water table to be lowered and streams to be diverted. This also worsens the quality of air due to the dust produced in the mines. Not to mention that coal is one of the most important agents for CO2 emission, which causes the greenhouse effect. Such effect is responsible for climate changes that put human life in danger. These are some of the reasons for concern under an environmental perspective, “he points out.
The way Todt sees it, this may also cause health care problems. For instance, coal mine workers could have serious respiratory problems caused by environmental conditions. They could also be effected by common occupational accidents, mobile device traffic, slides, fire / explosion, and particulate matter accidents. “In some cases we can see a clear connection between the mining activity and hunger in traditional peoples. And several indigenous communities live in the area where the mining company intends to set up the Mina Guaíba. Also, the project is a reason for concern for the health of the entire population of the region, including Porto Alegre, as it presents serious risk of contamination of water and air by heavy metals. As for water, the water table runs risk of contamination. Any mistakes or accidents will quickly compromise water supply of Porto Alegre and the greater metropolitan area. As for air, the population of the region can be affected by exposure to atmospheric pollutants, as coal mining releases several toxic substances, “Todt adds.
The Environmental Justice Atlas is sponsored by the European Research Council and coordinated at the Instituto de Ciência Ambiental e Tecnologia (ICTA), of the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), by Leah Temper and Joan Martínez-Alier. Daniela De Bene serves as the project’s main director. It receives the support of ENVJustice Project, a project geared towards environmental justice. “According to Martínez-Alier, EJAtlas is a valuable source for research as it makes it easy for researchers to see the conflicts by selecting the type of natural resource, countries or by the companies involved. Global analysis shows that ecological conflicts are growing at an alarming rate all over the world due to the demand for materials and energy from the world’s middle and upper class population. Poor and indigenous communities, as well as people with no political power are the most commonly affected” says Todt.
Todt found out about EJAtlas as he was reading articles in support of his PhD research. His study, under the guidance of Professor Rafael Machado Madeira, looks at the way in which political parties of Brazil address ecological issues. “Several researchers at ICTA-UAB are important references in my research. I am currently in contact with Professor Federico Demaria, an ICTA-UAB interdisciplinary socio-environmental scientist and adjunct coordinator of the EnvJustice Project. I have also been working with researcher Grettel Navas, also from ICTA-UAB. Navas participates in ENVJustice and coordinates the Working Group on Political Ecology the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO). Both encouraged me to share some Brazilian cases in the EJAtlas, “he says. He intends to share some other mining-related cases of social and environmental conflicts. According to him, in Rio Grande do Sul alone, there are more than 150 such projects.