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11/19/2015

Recuperation of the Rio Doce is possible, according to article

In an article published this Wednesday, 18th, on the website Colabora, the journalist Agostinho Vieira states that, contrary to what has been circulating on social networks, the Rio Doce is not dead and can be recuperated.

“The rumor about the death of the longest river in the Southeast has been spreading through social networks for a few days but has no foundation. True, it is in a serious condition, but its hospitalization in intensive care did not happen last week. It has been on life support for several years, and even then, hardly received any visits from its relatives.

If it were possible to create a ranking of the problems of the Rio Doce, the terrible accident at Mariana would appear only in third or maybe fourth place. Higher up in the ranking, in an incontestable first place, would be the chronic lack of sanitation in the country. The river is 853 km long and crosses 228 municipalities – 202 in Minas Gerais – but there are few municipalities who have an appropriate system for the collection and treatment of sewage. The breaking of the dams put 62 million cubic meters of mud into the Rio Doce. A tsunami of water, clay and iron waste. But that is almost nothing compared to the volume of raw sewage that is poured into its waters daily. Along with the lack of sanitation, the poor patient has suffered from the droughts of recent years and irresponsible deforestation in the region, which has led to the river silting up. Riparian forests gave way to cattle and small farms.

Does this mean that the accident was not important? Of course it was. It was very serious, terrible and dramatic. Whatever the adjective, it will pass. The mud will subside and life and the river will run its course. Copasa (the sanitation company of Minas Gerais) released a report giving assurances that no heavy metals were found in the river. Yesterday, the city of Governador Valadares started to collect and treat the water from the Rio Doce again.

Today, the mud plume will reach Colatina in Espírito Santo. The city hall there will also stop the water supply there for one or two days. Professor Paulo Canedo, from the Department of Hydrology at Coppe, explains that the main problem is the turbidity of the water. It prevents the passage of the sun, photosynthesis and causes the death of fish and aquatic vegetation. In addition, with high levels of turbidity the water cannot be accepted by the water treatment station. Hence the need to interrupt the supply. According Canedo, the greatest damage should occur in the first 100 km of the river, but he warns of the importance of monitoring the whole length of the river.

However, what cannot be passed on is the chance to resolve the old and new problems of the river once and for all. The crisis created the opportunity, as the Chinese would say. The Instituto Terra, run by the photographer Sebastião Salgado, has a big project for the recovery of springs which was presented to President Dilma and the companies involved. It was not designed after the accident, it existed previously. But it needs support. Ricardo Valory, the director general of the Rio Doce Water Basin Agency, said the agency also has a detailed document showing how to make the river healthier. There is however a lack of resources. In social networks, as well as the rumors, there are also movements like ‘Viva Rio Doce’ which has been organized by sports fishermen in order to create and repopulate the river with the typical species of the basin.

It’s hard to calculate what it would cost to complete recovery of the Rio Doce. Some experts speak of a figure between R $ 10 billion and R $ 20 billion. Perhaps more. It will certainly be a larger number than the ridiculous fine of $ 250 million applied by Ibama or the settlement of R $1 billion made with prosecutors. But it will be much less than the profits and benefits that companies and governments extracted from the Rio Doce over the years. It’s time to give something back. Not just by investing money, but also the time and political will needed to resolve the issue.

To say that the river died or will die, aside from not being true, creates a climate of demobilization. If it has already died, why do anything? It is worth remembering that the river Thames in London was considered biologically dead. Today it is clean. The Tiete in Sao Paulo was full of heavy metals and is being unpolluted. Slowly, it is true, but it is happening. There is much work to be done in Rio Doce. The river is alive. “

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