Projeto Amigo do Lago da Serra da Mesa
Educação sócio-ambiental no entorno do maior reservatório artificial de água doce do Brasil.
Uruaçu, February 10th, 2005
To the New York Times
We would like your attention and whatever measures deemed
necessary to make public the document and contents below, subject to
your previous investigation, which in a sense spread out to the Serra da
Mesa lake , the article written by Larry Rother on September 7, 2004*.
This article has been written by the Goias State Criminal
Prosecutor who is also the head of the NGO Institute Serrano Neves,
meant to protect the region hydro-resources ( which are linked to the
Amazonas hydro network).
Thank you in advance for your time and eventual
Note for editor’s use additional information can be
obtained at (and/or):
Serrano Neves Institute - www.serrano.neves.nom.br
Federal Justice – Goiás Section http://www2.trf1.gov.br
Protocol number 20043500018667-7
Serrano Neves - 55 623574389 / 55 62 96255275
Cylene Gama – 55 12 36421452
João Carlos Kruel (APEGO NGO): 55 62 2420039 / 55 62
THE SERRA DA MESA LAKE – HUMAN HEALTH and ECONOMICS
BRASIL – In the North of GOIÁS, the Serra da Mesa hydroelectric dam has been projected as Brazil major artificial freshwater dam – third in Latin America. Its 54 billions of m3 of storage capacity and 1780 Km2 of water surface have taken out the territory of 8 municipalities.
The lake was formed on an extensive region used to prospect alluvium gold which comprehends the Almas and the Maranhão rivers, as well as their tributaries – an area where cattle raising has been replaced by the soybean and sugar cane crops.
The Tocantins tributaries (Amazon basin) flow to the the Tucuruí dam (Pará), and one of them, the Almas river, which goes through a more densely inhabited region, bears the onus to transport by its tributaries network the urban and industrial residual components, mostly domestic sewage, whereas the Maranhão river sided by only two urban conglomerates is the one assigned to carry on with the urban garbage from the Federal District surrounding area, where it has its springs. Both rivers flow to the lake where the soil is eroded, due to poorly agricultural handling methods added to soil fertilizers and agro-toxic residues.
Submerse vegetation, due to water accumulation, on a putrefaction process (similar episode to what happened at the Tucuruí dam, downstream) harbors fertilizers and algae tend to uncontrollable proliferation as the reservoir functions much bellow its normal capacity (about 40% in February 2005).Among such algae it is worth mentioning the Cyanophyceae and among them the ones able to generate lethal toxin.
Blue algae have already been detected on a concerning level adding to methylmercury , organophosphorate, organochlorides, and pyretroids pesticides , these last ones not yet analyzed but, traditionally present where sugar cane and soybean crops plague demand close control.
After intense pressure from different NGOs the Goiás Environmental Agency has officially acknowledged (at the Serra da Mesa Lake Conservation Forum, in Minaçu-GOIÁS) that contamination already pointed out in official reports did exist, also mentioning the presence of toxic aluminum, responsible for Alzehimer disease.
Before the reservoir being filled up problems would sort of flow with the waters, only to be accumulated at the Tucuruí dam, but now the Serra da Mesa Lake concentrates the major part of these problems.
The construction of Cana Brava, a smaller size dam, formed a now slow bypass where quality degradation reactions take place long before the course of waters regain a free flow.
Significant fish death, downstream the Cana Brava dam, signals pollution concentration and fish death equally registered within the tributaries, do confirm that some lethal component is being transported in concerning proportions.
The region, originally classified as one of endemic risk, due to environmental alterations was appointed in 2002, through the “ Serra da Mesa Health Intermunicipal Consortium” report as one of high endemic risk, associated to bat’s habitat displacement and schistosomiasis vector dissemination.
Yellow fever, rabies, malaria and schistosomiasis form the picture of diffuse damage to human health and, its control proves to be inefficient because the company licensed to explore energy does not regularly supply the financial resources meant to be of its responsibility.
The lake became apt to generate energy in 1998, but environmental studies had not been carried out because they were not officially deemed mandatory at the time the construction began, promoting an expressive gap between then and what is now demanded as environmental repair.
Economics exploration methods, associated to tourism and fishing, are part of government policies and food production (grain, or animal raising), represent an ever growing activity.
In the past few years studies have not been enough to support the idea that water originated problems are increasing as one could not have crossed information to interlink human and animal health.
Though these are typical problems, they are not specific to Brazil . In the United States there is a growing concern about the presence of mercury, linked to mineral coal burning and also toward lakes which are surrounded by agriculture land – both signaling the configuration of danger.
The difference here in how one positions in relation to problems which are unavoidable, but feasible to be minimized, is that in the USA information is available to the ordinary citizen and authorities commitment goes to a point where manuals are distributed to orient on fish consumption whenever there are suspects of mercury contamination and in Brazil it was necessary for environmental education and sports fishing NGOs to hunt for government files to make possible to have a case and then propose to bring the responsible ones to Court, before human attendance to such leisure areas increased and before the government implemented its aquaculture projects.
The work carried out by the mentioned ONGs was named “obstacles to economical progress “, aiming to hide information and neglect due attention and care – worth mentioning that, the volunteering technical efforts from the ones involved with data studies, were not sufficient for reality to be associated to truth as we can infer occult interests.
No resistance from the Government and its linked entities had been enough to diminish the volunteers zeal and denounces keep on surfacing at departments which are interested on a solution, as the one which cares for indigenous population health.
The NGOs leaders are sexagenarian ones who have witnessed the Brazilian territory environmental degradation and who are strongly concerned about health of the population surrounding the lake, the health of the ones who with them interact and also with the danger of diffuse damage throughout Brazil, i.e. the insertion of toxic agents within the food chain – not so much due to present contamination indexes but mostly due to the bioaccumulation phenomenon which generates effects on a longer period and masks effects, mainly when we tackle renal and nervous system diseases. One must here take into consideration that we are talking about a country where information access is deemed low.
Loss of quality and danger associated to accumulated water at the Serra da Mesa lake are exported by the Tocantins river up to its mouth in the Amazonas region where it crosses a large developing area. If environmental careless patterns plus government omission attitudes are followed these will constitute strong contribution toward water course and discharge of useless water meant for human beings.
Presence of toxic agents in the food chain, either by irrigation or animal thirst or feeding, can result on long term effects and one can visualize the Federal District (Brasília) as the first victim, considering that a large quantity of fish, not subject to sanitary measure controls.
Diffuse damage probability can increase if the Government insists on its aquaculture projects oriented to feed starving population and exportation as well, adding to the fact that the chosen species (Oreochromus Nyloticus) is an invading exotic one, which proved to cause problems in different parts of the world - though it presents associated productivity and a relative safety whenever inserted into excavated tanks subject to strict handling, so that natural escape to environmental areas do not occur.
Through the so called “economical development” marketing the government lures the poorer population by promising income results and social inclusion, even when techno and scientific segments point to the non feasibility of the project, to its non sustainability or when lesser cost solutions can be implemented with more immediate results.
Such techno and scientific positions are rated as political opposition and counter argument on the basis of economical development - but people start reacting on a coherent and systematic approach, as in the present example when they position themselves against the Sao Francisco River transposition, which financing was denied by BIRD due to its unfeasibility.
In relation to the hydroelectric reservoirs a strong reaction begins to grow, aiming also to prevent dam construction because it is present in those Brazilian artificial lakes the danger and potential of accumulation – observation which was made at a recent forum about the Paranaiba River, where sequential reservoirs are present, by Furnas - operator one of these - who detains high technology in the study of hydro bodies.
Internally the debates tend to be muffled by economical interests which are in turn sustained by government policies but it is not difficult to notice that, as in the example of the São Francisco River transposition , which does not present mediate risk potential whereas the quality of water into a dam reservoir signals , besides immediate health damage correlated to endemic and direct contact, it also signals future and diffuse damage whenever these lakes produced food is consumed directly or indirectly .
The New York Times article has approached mercury potential damage toward fetus formation and the expressive number of dead born babies – however the Brazilian population as a whole lack access to this information because of access and language barrier. There are many difficulties to have internal information flow because of lack of financial resources and access to the great media and, Brazilians fearlessly live side by side with danger and do not acknowledge damage origin.
The Serra da Mesa Lake volunteers’ project comprehends people and entities which are not familiar with the lake itself but who can anticipate the possible bankruptcy due to economical exploration no matter how sustainable it may be rated. If urgently required care to minimize danger potentials are not implemented. The bioaccumulation can make unfeasible these activities, sacrificing the population inserted into the production chain and it can also jeopardize the state of Goias ( and Brazil as well) economical goals toward grain and meat exportation. The country economics would be affected as a whole thus generating high costs of control and measures to reverse them.
* FOREIGN DESK | September 7, 2004, Tuesday
Tucuruí Journal; Drowned, Not Downed, Trees in the Amazon Get Nasty
By LARRY ROHTER (NYT) 1079 words
Late Edition - Final , Section A , Page 4 , Column 3
ABSTRACT - Brazilian government built $8 billion dam in Tucurui, but did not clear trees and other growth in area that would be flooded; now, 20 years later, it has become problem; decomposing vegetation has resulted in emission of millions of tons of greenhouse gases; submerged tree trunks hinder navigation, and scientists worry that increasing acidity of water in reservoir could corrode hydroelectric dam's turbines; photo; map (M)
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