sábado, 27 de março de 2010


C. Joy Sheng (*)

In 2008, together with state entrepreneurs, Governor Braga announced construction approval for the port of Lajes. While work was slated to officially begin on October 10, 2010, Gov. Braga announced in 2008 that workers have already begun “hands-on” construction.

The problem? The port terminal is to be built near Manaus’ Industrial District, approximately a half-mile (800 m) upstream of the city’s famous Meeting of the Waters. The Waters are an iconic attraction for Brazilians and foreigners alike: a natural phenomenon, it consists of the great Negro and Solimões Rivers merging to create the Amazon River, which then flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Apart from hosting rare earth elements, the Meeting of the Waters is a point of local and national pride, a visually striking emblem of Brazilian biodiversity (Gerard et al., 2003).

Over a year ago, NCPAM teamed up with the bairro of Antônio Aleixo, a neighborhood in Manaus’ Zona Leste (“East Zone”), to create the movement S.O.S. Encontro das Águas. The partnership’s mission is to preserve the environmental integrity of the Meeting of the Waters, and is explicitly intent on resisting corporate interests from compromising said integrity.

However, in the case of Port Lajes, S.O.S. is facing a bigger Goliath: the Government of the State of Amazonas itself. The actual project was initiated by the company Log-In Logistica Intermodal. But after approving the project, the State Government joined Log-In to form a private corporation, Lajes Logística S.A. In this way, project financing could be freed to fund pursuits antithetical to Gov. Braga’s widely vaunted environmental agenda.

Under the project model, a mixed-use private terminal will include a patio with more than 100 thousand square meters, enabling it to store 250 thousand units of containers holding diverse cargo. Attached to the project’s IPAAM application are environmental impact studies and a Report on Environmental Impact (EIA), both of which are required by current legislation in order to obtain licensing approval.

But the State Public Prosecutor has expressed dissatisfaction with the preparation of the EIA/RIMA addendums, acknowledging protests from the Antônio Aleixo community. Thus, while IPAAM is ordinarily responsible for reviewing EIAs and granting Environmental Licenses, the Prosecutor has filed for preliminary injunction, a legal provisional remedy usually granted to temporarily restrain activity until a final court decision. In this case, the injunction would suspend further developments until a Public Audience slated for August 27, 2009. However, under the Code of Civil Procedure, lack of sufficient cause moves the injunction toward a permanent trial. This would leave room for interim development prior to the trial and therefore render the Prosecutor`s efforts useless.

The Amazonas State Attorney General deferred action on the preliminary injunction, choosing instead to allow issues of licensing continue to be decided under Judge Antonio Adalberto Carim. Carim, Special State Judge of Environmental and Agrarian Justice, granted the pirmary partial injunction against IPAAM As a result, Carim presided over an Environmental Inspection proposal held on the 9th of February at the Meeting of the Waters.

According to Carim, the resultant sentence could close the case and return it to the IPAAM administrative body, effectively sentencing in favor of the prosecution. But Carim has resolved to push for the Environmental Inspection in hopes of clarifying facts and facilitating inter-party dialogue. To this end, Carim has proposed the use of an Environmental Adjustment of Conduct (TACA) in order to settle the future of the project. While he stressed the non-obligatory nature of this proposal, he also emphasized the necessity of mutual understanding between the parties.

The TACA is no quick-fix cure for conflicts such as these. In reality, the TACA is designed to be implemented in tandem with preventive educational and socio-economic mechanisms.

It can therefore be argued that to utilize the TACA is to require entrepreneurs to be environmentally responsible by way of prevention of aggressive development enterprises. And close analysis of TACA clauses fails to reveal with precision the nature of parties’ involvement: How will they benefit financially from efforts claimed to promote sustainable development? Is the political power of these entities balanced by participatory governance?

S.O.S. Encontro das Águas is doing what it can to resist this powerful coalition of development interests. But with entrepreneurs radically increasing their efforts to exploit the local legal system in pursuit of licensing for the project, S.O.S. is now imploring NCPAM’s readership to act swiftly. Letters of protest can be written to the Secretaries of Environmental Sustainability at the city and state levels, as well as to Governor Braga. Other parties of interest include the National Congress and the Executive Committee of FIFA World Cup 2010.

The Meeting of the Waters is a great symbol of Brazil’s great heritage of natural beauty. But it could also come to symbolize accession to private interests at the cost of sustainable wellbeing— a troubling new trend indeed.

(*) is a guest contributing editor. She is an international liason for UFAM, specializing in indigenous rights advocacy. For factual corrections or copyright inquiries, please email ncpamz@gmail.com with the pertinent blog entry title in the subject line.

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