Residents of Furo Grande riverside community, locate in the Jaguars Island, in Barcarena municipality (state of Pará), are collecting, storing, and consuming better quality water. In the Amazon, surrounded by the water of the rivers, it is rainwater collection that ensures clean drinking water. To complete the water care cycle, the installation of riverside eco-friendly bathrooms ensures the treatment of wastewater and contribute to avoiding river contamination.
Simple, low-cost solutions suitable to the reality in the Amazon are being implemented by the project “Promoting socio-biodiversity: environmental restoration with income generation in riverine communities in the Amazon”, from the Amazon Rural Federal University (UFRA), which since 2012 has been carrying out studies and actions with the participation of 15 families.
The social technologies developed for the community were selected for the space Solutions Market, and will be presented in Brasilia, during the World Water Forum.
And it all began with bees...
Started in 2012, the project “Promoting socio-biodiversity: environmental restoration with income generation in riverine communities in the Amazon” began in a classroom in the shape of a practical and applied research and extension proposal. “A kind of challenge to students to change the local reality,” says Vania Neu, ecologist and professor at UFRA.
In a visit to the Furo community, on the Onça Island, a lack of pollinators was identified and consequently there was a decrease in açai production, the community's main source of income. So, the first action targeted the restoration of forests with the reintroduction of the native honey bee (Melipona flavolineata).
“But everyday a new problem would arise in the community. The locals did not have access to the most basic things such as drinking water, electricity, sanitation. We then sought to expand our regard, broaden the initial idea and promote other transformations. Then we developed alternative social technologies as the rainwater collection system and the riverside eco-friendly bathroom. Since it's the Amazon, it has to be something simple and cheap. Expensive, high-maintenance systems won't do it,” says Vania Neu.
Unlike the Northeast, rainwater collection tanks installed in the community amazon are elevated. Vania Neu explains that the need for rainwater collection exists because in certain periods of the year, in Belem island regions, when the flow of Pará river and Guajará Bay is reduced, its waters become brackish due to the mixing of inland fresh water from the region known as Golfão Marajoara with salty water from sea. “This concentration of salts makes the water unfit for consumption, which differs from rainwater that has low concentration of salts. Therefore, rainwater in this region of the country, where industrial activity is small, is of a better quality then river water,” she adds.
According to the Professor, in the Amazon, the major water contamination problems originate from domestic waste, especially near large cities, such as Belem and Manaus. The eco-friendly bathroom setup on the Jaguars Island does not use water for waste dilution, which prevents land and water contamination. It is a dry bathroom that uses sawdust, ashes, or dry leaves, which helps with the waste decomposition process via composting. The eco-friendly bathroom is also connected to the rainwater collection and storage system. From the cistern comes a pipe that goes all the way to the bathroom, taking water to a tap for hand washing after using the bathroom.
In 2013, after winning the Professor Samuel Benchimol Award, and the Banco da Amazônia's Conscious Entrepreneurship award, it was possible to build a water analysis laboratory at UFRA and conduct a survey on the ethnobotany and the main medicinal plants used by the community. In 2014, the work was the winner of the “Education” category of Brazil's National Waters Agency (ANA), and, in 2015, it was presented at the 7th World Water Forum in the Republic of Korea. Also in 2015, it earned the social technology certification granted by the Banco do Brasil Foundation for the eco-friendly bathroom.
Vania Neu expects that the solutions presented by the project reach now another level and may be incorporated as state public policies. The cooperation project presented to the State Secretariat of Science, Technology and Vocational and Technological Education of the state of Pará (SECTEC-PA) for improvements to the installed equipment can inspire the scaleup of access to drinking water and sanitation to the state level. “I'll be happy to see the day when all people have access to clean water and sanitation. Our project shows, in practice, that this is possible," she concludes.
The Solutions Market is part of Citizen Village's programming, conceived by the Citizen's Forum Process of the 8th World Water Forum. From Monday, it will present 60 individual or community experiences from different parts of the world, all of them related to good water use practices. The idea is that visitors realize that they can replicate the initiatives or create their own solutions.
The Citizen Village is a free space open to the general public that takes place at the Mané Garrincha National Stadium. The Village's goal is to raise awareness, drawing the attention of the general public and social participation to water related issues, in addition to promoting innovative solutions to the problems citizens face in everyday life.