Aramanaí APA suffers the effects of fire and abandonment

Protected area depends on the help of volunteers to combat burnings

  Areas affected by the fire

Areas affected by the fire

Located on the right bank of the Tapajós River in the municipality of Belterra-PA, the Aramanaí Environmental Protection Area (APA) has once again been the victim of burnings. Since the 15th of November of last year, the records of outbreaks of fire have increased vertiginously. According to the information of the detachment of the Fire Brigade in the region, the data indicates that the fires were started intentionally.

The civil police are already investigating those probably responsible for the fires, but until now, no one has been detained. The fires have affected large areas of the APA, both on the hillsides and in the ciliary forests belonging to the principal tributaries of the Tapajós river. Many animals have burnt to death, unable to escape the flames. A team of three fireman from the fire brigade of the neighboring city, Santarém-PA, staff of the secretary for the environment of Belterra, two volunteers and two employees of the secretary for infrastructure make up the group combatting the fires.

  Animal casualty of the fire...

Animal casualty of the fire...

  Firefighters brigade attempting to control the spread of the flames in the Aramanaí forest

Firefighters brigade attempting to control the spread of the flames in the Aramanaí forest

  A local resident trying to extinguish the fire without the benefit of protection against the flames

A local resident trying to extinguish the fire without the benefit of protection against the flames

The lack of trained personnel to control the fire has been aggravated by the shortage in food and water supply to the team, as well as the omission of the Belterra Council and Chamber, who did not support the combat. The interests of public power were shown in May 2017 through a badly planned action that reduced the area of the Aramanaí APA by 20% with the aim of implanting ports for the flow of grains from agribusiness.

Furthermore, property speculation continues to provoke conflict between businessmen and residents in the area, which has been accompanied and mediated by State and Federal Public Prosecutor’s Offices, as well as the Federal Police. The Pará State Prosecutor, through the public prosecutors of the Environmental and Agricultural Courts of Santarém, judged a public civil suit on 15th September 2017 ruling that the municipality of Belterra and the State of Pará – Secretary for the Environment and Sustainability, may not issue and must suspend any environmental licensing in the Aramanaí Environmental Protection Area, and in the area recently affected, until Environmental Management of the APA Direction Plan is implemented.

Despite the existence of police reports, there is no clear information on the situation of the investigations. Somewhat randomly, the Aramanaí APA continues to depend on the voluntary forces, its own vegetal regeneration and the rains to mitigate the impact of the fire. 

  An arial view of the Aramanaí Environmentally Protected Area (APA) as well as the source of the fire

An arial view of the Aramanaí Environmentally Protected Area (APA) as well as the source of the fire

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Regional leaders discuss agrarian development model

One of the main objectives of Beyond Fordlândia is to intensify the debate about the impacts of activities related to agricultural production. The Waldemar Maués State School in Belterra (PA) held a meeting with the leaders of the Rural Workers' Unions of Santarém, Mojui do Campos and Belterra, as well as the Women's Association of the Municipality of Belterra (AMABELA), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and the Federation of Organs for Social and Educational Assistance (FASE). The objective of the meeting was the planning of the Agrochemicals event and its influences on human health and the Amazon biome.

“We understand that in this struggle we need to join forces. That is why it is vital to bring these institutions closer to the debate and build a better future”, said Waldemar Maués professor Laura Chagas.

In addition to the meeting, a data collection action was carried out for research developed in the School, entitled Socioeconomic and health diagnosis of the people vulnerable to contamination by exposure to the use of pesticides in the urban area and adjacencies of the municipality of Belterra - Pará. These information are fundamental to subsidize actions of public agencies to mitigate and give effective responses to this social, economic and environmental impact from agribusiness. Questionnaires were submitted to 151 households in the communities of Portão, Trevo and Amapá, that were near the borders of BR 163 and considered to be exposed.

 

Photos by Laura Chagas.

Joint Action to Save the Amazon

One week ago (September 15-17) a joint MEETING OF THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS OF WEST PARÁ was held in the district of Mararu in Santarém, West of the Paraense Amazon: "Weaving resistance in the confrontation with capital investment”, an event that was attended by about one hundred activists from social movements in twelve municipalities in west Pará.

During the event, representatives of the movements discussed the progress of large interests (agribusiness, hydroelectric, mineral extraction, logging), advancing in the region that do not take into account respect for the customs and traditions of the indigenous population and the balance of life in the Amazon region. The meeting also aimed at building a solidarity network to confront the invasion of the territory by national and foreign capital.

At the end of the event, three lines of action were drawn: (1) strategic planning in the areas of action; (2) the struggle to defend the territory threatened with invasion and (3) the use of communication networks to keep the various interested groups interconnected (radio, social networks, social media and newspapers) — aimed at mobilization of other movements throughout the Amazon.

According to the organizers of the event, governments and companies will encounter some difficulties in achieving their goal of destroying the common home of the Amazonians.

Photos by Laura Chagas.

Seminar on the Influence of Pesticides on Human Health and the Amazon Biome

On August 31st, a seminar was presented, sponsored by the “Society X project Environment: Discussing the Future”, whose theme was: “Pesticides and their influences on human health and the Amazon biome”. The main objective of the event was to bring together research institutions such as, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), Federal University of Western Pará  (UFOPA), Brazilian Forestry Service, Ministry of Agriculture, Company of Technical Assistance and Rural Extension of the State of Pará - EMATER), social organizations (Federation of Social Organizations of the Tapajós National Forest, Union of Rural Workers of Belterra, Family Farming Forum, Belterra Department of Agriculture), teachers, students and society in general so that together they could present and discuss proposals on the expansion of pesticide usage, since the pressure on the agribusiness advance in the municipality of Belterra increases each day.

 Participants in the seminar, 2017.

Participants in the seminar, 2017.

 A folder of the event.

A folder of the event.

Workshop on the Assessment of Toxic Pesticides Effects - Class of 2017

A workshop was held on Thursday, August 24, on the methodology of application of questionnaires for research purposes with Waldemar Maués High School students by the Professor and Anthropologist Rui Harayama of the Federal University of West Pará (UFOPA). This workshop will support the research being developed on the socioeconomic and health diagnosis of people vulnerable by exposure to the use of pesticides in the urban area and adjacencies in the municipality of Belterra, Pará - Brazil.

 Professor Rui Harayama and the students of the Waldemar Maués High School.

Professor Rui Harayama and the students of the Waldemar Maués High School.

 Pesticide toxicity workshop class of 2017.

Pesticide toxicity workshop class of 2017.

 Pesticide toxicity workshop class of 2017.

Pesticide toxicity workshop class of 2017.

Conflict within the Aramanaí Environmental Protection Area in Belterra provokes conciliation hearing that did not happen.

On the morning of Friday (21.07.2017) a hearing was held before the City Council of Belterra, Pará - Brazil. Guests were two parties to a litigation that concerned territory inside of an Environmentally Protected Area. One party, Mrs. Elizabete (Betinha) claimed to own a lot of land within the Cajutuba community; the other party, consists of members of the local community association. There had been a football field for 42 years, according to the president of the association, Mr. Admilson, and six members of the Cajutuba community; there is also a Catholic church and a community shed for more than ten years on the property in contention.

  The area of the Aramanaí community in litigation

The area of the Aramanaí community in litigation

Mrs. Betinha proposed to donate another area behind the church in exchange for the area of the soccer field, which she had already sold to someone else. After collection of testimony by the City Council, with each party giving their version of the conflict, and, as there had been an assault by unknowns who knocked down the two crossings of the football field and opened a ditch in the middle of the field, the members of the association opened proceedings in the Public Prosecutor's Office. An investigation was ordered by the federal police but the community did not accept an exchange agreement that was proposed. In the opinion of the lawyer Dr. Nonato who follows the case, if the occupation involves public land, Mrs. Betinha can not declare herself the owner of the property. But, if the property title is legitimately in Mrs. Betinha’s name, the community has the right to use Usucaption (adverse possession, i.e., the right to or ownership of property on the basis of possession of it for a prescribed period of time) without objection by the owner for at least ten years. At the end of the hearing the councilors present said that they were there to mediate. As there was no agreement the case went to court.

As Cajutuba is within an area of environmental protection (APA), the case goes to the Federal Public Ministry. One participant took the floor and said: “If Cajutuba is a public area of the Federal Union, then Mrs. Betinha can not have a legitimate document and the community has the right of tenure for the time of use. If Mrs. Betinha has a legitimate property document and therefore the area is no longer public, then the community becomes legitimate owner by Usucapião (adverse possession), since the community has used the area without objection for more than ten years. The community has the right not to agree.” The lawyer and the community members agreed with the decision, but Mrs. Betinha did not.

This is one of the conflicts between traditional communities and real estate agents and companies interested in occupying areas conducive to the construction of bulk ports in the region of Santarém. This region is coveted by investors and exporters of extractive products from the north and center-west of Brazil. The navigable rivers for large ships make the way between the markets of Europe, Asia and North America closer. Santarém is the location of the modern port that CARGILL uses to export 2 million and eight hundred thousand tons of soy and corn a year.

Take Action

Beyond Fordlândia is proud to join forces with the Society X Environment: “Discussing the Future”, an educational project led by Professor Laura Chagas at Waldemar Maués State High School, located in the historic city of Belterra in the midst of the Amazon rain forest in the state of Pará, Brazil.

This project aims to awaken in both the learner and the local community the concern to seek the development of the municipality, a consideration of the sustainable use of natural resources, as well as of the quality of life of the people who inhabit the region. Creation of a common ground for sustainability, forest balance and quality of life is one of the great challenges for the people living in the Amazon region; however, the current scenario is headed towards anthropogenic depredation that only benefits large corporate enterprises and leaves progressively more Amazonians with little prospect of enjoying this much dreamt of development. Increased deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, especially for soybean plantations, poses a major threat not only to populations exposed to the direct effects of agrochemicals but also to negative impacts on water resources, soil, fauna and flora, which can result in catastrophic effects not only for the Amazon biome, but for the entire planet.

Founded on the basis of this idea, the Waldemar Maués School encouraged students to develop a critical spirit and to take on a participatory role in which they exercise political power by organizing the following activities:

  1. Organizing Public Hearings (June 2017) for discussion of the dismemberment (2,000 hectares) of an APA Aramanaí environmental protection area located on the banks of the Tapajós river. The discussions concerned the construction of ports for grain exports and were attended by approximately 300 People, involving members of the municipal government, the Public Ministry, Tapajós Vivo Movement, civil society and students of the School;
  2. The presentation of a public lecture (June 2017) entitled , “Amazonian Environmental Damage and its consequences in Human Health:Challenges for a methodological model for its confrontation”, delivered by the neurosurgeon Dr. Erik Jennings Simões, in the covered court of the school;
  3. The proposal of a research project (July/August 2017) called , “Socioeconomic and health diagnoses of the people vulnerable to contamination by exposure to the use of pesticides in the municipality Belterra, Pará”; led by Dr. Marcos Evandro Chagas.
  4. Organizing an audio-visual workshop (July 2017) that supports students in creating a documentary on the role ofexposure to agrochemicals in humanhealth, of said municipality;
  5. Organizing a public hearing to be held in August 2017 dealing with the effects of agrochemicals on the residents of the Belterra municipality urban area.

The Waldemar Maués School will develop these activities with the collaboration of partners due to the lack of specific supporting resources. The Waldemar Maués School expects to develop these activities with the collaboration of local partners, nonprofit organization and members of the civil society who see the nature is a foundation and due to the lack of specific supporting resources. By developing these activities incollaboration with local partners, nonprofit organization and members of the civil society the Waldemar MauésSchool model expects to build a bridge inthe fight against deforestation in theregion and at the same time setting a pattern not only for Belterra but for other communities in the region who are facing the same peril of destruction due to the soybean industry in the region.

The Society X Environment: “Discussing the Future” project needs all the help they can get to support their efforts in the education of this new generation. The project carries in its core the principle that human and non-human entities should live in harmony in its ecosystem. The Amazon rain forest its biome and ecologies depend on the environment and biological education of its value. Education and appropriate action will determine the future of the forest, and the survival not only of its people now, but for generations to come.

The lack of environment supporting, protection and intervention of municipality authorities does not give the project many options for action. Both teachers and students experience daily challenges in order to give and receive the necessary knowledge of the devastating environment impact in the region: challenges which include provision of the basic needs of food and transportation to the schools to the more complex need of access to technology. The teachers have the responsibilities to sponsor from their own expenses the food and transportation when the students have to stay the entire day at school. 

The makers of Beyond Fordlândia are delighted to contribute to their awareness of the environment and the implication taking place in their surrounding and to support the educational growing of The Society X Environment: “Discussing the Future” of the project are promoting. We also invited you to take action before it is too late.