Source: Portal Guaratiba
Recently, as World Youth Day was winding down, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes proposed transforming the controversial Campus Fidei — the Field of Faith — into a low-income housing tract, possibly paid for by mounting large musical shows in the area in order to take advantage of the elaborate stage built at the location. See
But numerous doubts have arisen over the feasibility of this proposal and the propriety of dealings with the owners of the land in the region.
Several reports have registered, if only briefly, the dominance of a militia in the area.
The state environmental prosecutor says the area is a Zone of Permanent [Environmental] Protection and plans to probe the regulatory agency responsible for having issued the project an environmental permit.
Fortunately, the neighborhood of 110,000 souls has developed a civic conscience in the form of the Portal Guaratiba, a funky but determined little voice of the community.
Its top story today: Environmental impact of the work performed to prepare the area for a Papal mass, which wound up being transferred to Copacabana Beach after rains left the Field of Faith in the condition of — the papers are near unanimous in the choice of terms — a quagmire
What should be remembered, however, is that the entire area is probably contaminated with blast furnace slag that was dumped in the area. The amount of this hard contaminant at the site is impressive, and probably comes from some steel making operation (we think it might be CSA) …
Contamination of the Field of Faith. This sort of material might conveniently be used profitably, without causing environmental damage. Instead, it is dumped in the open air without any study of it environmental impact. This does not seem to be the best way to discard this material.
Without doing a great deal of research, we are able to say that friction between the stones (particulate matter) tends to release a fine dust with a high level of iron ore that is spread by the wind. The contaminated soil, along with other subproducts of the material, spreads through the water table and the creeks into a manguezal ecosystem likely contaminated by heavy metals.
According to a document to which we — the 21st Brazilian Congress of Sanitation and Environmental Engineering — had access, signed by chemical engineers Marys Lene Braga Almeida and Gilberto Caldeira Bandeira de Melo, blast furnace slag has various uses, such as construction, aggregation, the paving of roadways, the manufacture of bricks and concrete blocks, and the manufactur of cement panels with panels of slag reinforced by fiberglas, used in the cement, glass and agriculture industries. Its use depends on the type of residue to be used.
This document warns that “despite the possble applications for the solid residue, its final use remains a systematic practice of the pig iron industry, generating more and more serious environmental damages.”
Cement factories using this type of material in the composition of its products warn their workers to be cautious, since the exposure to dust in the process of crushing could cause irritation of the airways.
The effect depends on the degree of exposure. Repeated exposure can cause pressure on the thorax, coughing and lung damage. It may even cause mild cases of black lung disease, pharyngitis and laryngitis. If ingested, this material can burn the mucus membrane of the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Ingestion of large quantities can cause intestinal problems and possibly also the formation of a solid aggregate in the stomach and intestine.
We take a piece of this aggregate and, with light taps from a hammer, simulating the friction between particles in nature, produce a fine dust that proves to be attracted to a magnet. In this way we show that the landfill constructed beside the Capoeira Grande highway iron filings in its composition.
For this reason, residents who occupy this landfill or who may occupy it in the future will exhibit some of the symptoms described above. The area should be rigorously analyzed by experts in environmental science to ensure the population is not harmed.
Saving the Manguezal
Also in the most recent edition, a strongly worded editorial on the depredation of the local ecosystem.
We know that the mangue ecosystem of Guaratiba has suffered constant attacks. Some are carried out by the population who are enccouraged by demogogic political leaders to ocupy the land with legal support from the environmental agenices. Some come from the city and state government, which open the area to housing developments. In this way, they invade areas that ought to be set aside for the Guaratiba environmental preserve based on the argument that these lands no longer form part of the preserve.
Everyone knows that the mangue is an area of permanent protection and need not be located in an area of publicc protection in order to be preserved. It is itself a form of vegetation protected by federal law.
The manguezal, an ecosystem amply represented along the Brazilian coast is considered an area of permanent protection. and is included in various constitutional and legal provisions (laws, decrees, resolutions, conventions). Adherence to these legal criteria impose a series of ordinances for the use of areas of manguezal. But since the law is not always obeyed in this country, in the best case, the Estate enforces it in favor of those with interests in the matter.
And that is how the manguezal of Guaratiba is being “legally” murdered. The worst part of it is that all of the oversight agencies have known for more than a year what is happening in the area: OAB, the state public ministry, the federal public ministtry, the ministry of the environment, the forest patrol, the Ministério Público Estadual, Ministério Público Federal, Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Patrulha Florestal, state and environmental secretaries. To date, nothing has been done.
The doubt that remains is whether these oversight actions are not being carried out because the Church or because some real estate brokerage — or perhaps both — is the party with the greatest influence. If some other religous sect were involved, would there be stricter oversight in the face of so many complaints and accusations?
Paes Freezes Project
For the sake of completeness, we should also record recent, more substantial statements by mayor Paes, who now says …
RIO – The city administration has decided to freeze for 180 days all licenses under analysis or already granted for the Guaratiba and Pedra de Guaratiba neighborhoods, in order to conduct a thorough urban planning study that will guide the occupation of the area in the next few decades. The decision comes in the form of a decree published Thursday in the Diário Oficial, declaring the two neighborhoods an area of special environmental interest. The Institute of Brazilian Architects will promote an ample debate that will serve as the basis for a Urban Structure Project (PEU) for the region, which will be considered as an expansion of city territory.
— We will debate how that area should be occupied, with standards to insure against overpopulation — the mayor said.
The measure interrupts, for example, any and all work on the Fazenda Vila Mar, on part of which the Field of the Faithful was to host the final events of World Youth Day. The city says that under current rules, up to 10,000 housing units may be built iin an area of 5 million square meters.
Current population estimate: 110,000
Church Will Pay for Damages
Some six months before the event, the WYD Institute not only already knew but had already signed a contract with Companhia Construtora Vila Mar in which it declares its awareness of the fact that the Field of Faith was “the target of sporadic flooding during rains more intense than usual.” In the contract of conveyance, signed January 10, to which GLOBO has had access, the WYD also promised to strive alongside public agenices to complete drainage projects for rivers, creeks, and the like.”
In the same document, the WYD takes responsibility “with respect to environmental agenices to realize measures to compensate for environmental damage, both ostensible and hidden, that may occur.”
WYD said in a note that “the works completed, with the advice of a geotechnical consultant, were built in such a way as to overcome the difficulties with the terrain.” And that “had we not been hit with atypical amounts of rain, the area would have been in perfect condition.
Regarding the environmental issue, WYD said “there have been no indications of actual damages, merely questions regarding the existence of licenses, which have been duly isssued.”
Before the Flood
Even before the cancellation of the event, Rio prosecutors (MP) were asking uncomfortable questions.
The MP has requested an investigation based on an accusation by an area resident. The resident accuses the current owners of the land of using violence and threats against residents in order to repossess the land. The complainant also relates that the landfill used “garbage, plastic, concrete and medical waste,” which is against the law. .
A team of police and forensic investigators from the Environmental Division visited the site to investigate how the landfill was created. Suspicions are that the infrastructure improvements as well as the environmental license are both irregular. Their report is due in a few days.
“There was landfill that was inconsistent with the rest of the project. There was also landfill in the manguezal, and these situations were annexed to our report. We are going to summon the legal representative of the company to provide the necessary clarifications,” said police official José Fagundes de Rezende.
The MP opened the case based on a complaint from a Guaratiba resident, who accuses the current owners of using violence and threats to repossess land in the area.
Police began investigating in December of last year when signs of environmental damage were observed. Business owner Jacob Barata Filho, one of the owners of the tract, appears on the list of suspects, along with representatives of the urban planning and environmental secretaries.
Vila Mar said it ceded the land to the Church and that it has all the necessary licenses. The company says the manguezal is being protected. In a note,the state secretary of th environment also said that the manguezal was being preserved in its entirety. INEA, for its part, says there were no irregularities in the licensing process.
According to a local resident,
“We spent a year without electricity or fixed-line telephone, eating dust the whole day through, and we saw a huge amount of unnecessary deforestation. We knew it was not going to work. Every stake that was driven was absorbed by the wet soil. Now, everyone has left, and there is extreme frustration. This is the fault of Cabral and Paes, who had plenty of time to work and who wound up doing everything wrong.”
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