The largest environmental disaster in the history of Brazil, known as the disaster of Mariana, was debated this Thursday (22), at Ulysses Guimarães Convention Center in Brasília, brazil. The focus was on the impact caused on water resources and in the solutions found to restore the quality of the water and of the life of affected communities.

The Attorney-General of the State of Minas Gerais, Onofre Alves Batista Junior, reported about the state of affairs in Mariana and made a presented at the post-accident and shared the measures that were taken at the time. “We were facing a much larger problem than what the institutions were prepared to cope with,” he said.

According to him, only with the engage efforts of several coordinated and legitimized player that it is possible to create a solution for a disaster of such a magnitude. “That effort, avoiding that isolated parties took uncoordinated initiatives, needs to be undertakendone,” he noted.

Alice Silva Castilho, coordinator of the Department of Hydrology – Geological Service of Brazil (CPRM) shared CPRM's experience on their post-disaster performance, and stressed the importance of having a protocol of action institutional and between institutions for environmental disasters.

Additionally, showed that the parameters monitored by CPRM in the stations of Valle do Rio Doce, three times a year, indicate that the turbidity (a measure that identifies the presence of particles in suspension in the water, which affects its transparency) is still above the values recorded before the breaking of the dam.

Luciane Teixeira, president of the Committee of the Doce River Basin, has strengthened this integrated approach so that effective actions are pursued. “There are several actions taking place, so we have to try to coordinate so that they follow the same path and one will strengthen the other. This is what we seek,” he says. 

Luciane also clarified that the population has representation in the debates. “Today, we meet at the basin, all of the players who are trying to solve the issues that existed and those that are yet to emerge,” he said.

Roberto Waack, president and ceo of the Renova Foundation , explained the model of governance designed in order to try to balance the consequences of the disaster. “This system has no precedent in Brazil and I think that neither in the world”, she said.

Waack listed the various actions taken by the foundation to recover the affected area. “The actions involving a number of fronts, such as management (of waste removal), water management to recover water quality, the work to understand the impact and how recover biodiversity, as well as monitor water quality along the river”, he cited.

According to him, there are 92 monitoring units already in place and that the challenge is to translate the more than 120 monitoring parameters that are collected in this process and serves as the basis for evaluating water quality. “This is a long-term process and can only be built in conjunction with the population in the design, execution and monitoring”, emphasized.

Renova was founded after the signature of the Transaction and Conduct Adjustment Term (TTAC) entered into by Samarco, a company responsible for the dam breached, and the public authorities. In general, the system of governance works through an interfederative committee, a steering council, an advisory council that brings the voice of the people who were directly affected, the academia and other actors; in addition to supporting bodies, such as the panel of experts, and the independent audit, which monitors the implementation of the actions.

Understand the case

The breaking of the Fundão dam, on 5 November 2015 became known as the disaster of Mariana. The largest environmental disaster in the history of Brazil discharded 50 million tons of waste into one of the largest iron mines in the world, killing 19 people and contaminating more than 500 km of the Doce river.