272 innocent people were killed. A tsunami of toxic mud unleashed, some 12 million cubic metres of ore tailing into the surrounding areas. January 25th, 2024 is the solemn 5-year mark of the Brumadinho upstream mining dam collapse. This was Brazil’s worst environmental and industrial disaster.
Even a region like the South American La Plata Basin, known for it's majestic rivers and wetlands, is struggling with drought. A group of organisations united in the Wetlands without Borders network strive to turn the tide.
The new year has barely begun but already record high summer temperatures are being reported in parts of South America, especially Argentina, Paraguay and Southern Brazil. The latest heatwave, with temperatures of up to 45C, arrives on top of two years of severe drought which had a devastating effect on the entire region. It is a painful reminder of the immediacy of climate change and emblematic for what happens when vital ecosystems are not protected and for the catastrophic consequences as much on already endangered wildlife as on the local communities who depend on them for their livelihoods. One of the most affected areas are the regions wetlands – unique ecosystems, which are crucial ecological pressure points, vital for the regulation of river systems and huge carbon sinks. Their loss not only has ecological impacts but affects thousands of local communities which depend on their health for fishing, tourism and local agriculture. The threat to them by for example droughts and fires, can be directly linked to the large-scale production of soy, produced mainly for export. This in turn means responsibility for what is happening in the region needs to be acknowledged and shared by leaders around the world, and especially large importers such as the Netherlands.
The Wetlands without Borders programme aims to preserve the biodiversity of the La Plata Basin and the sustainable livelihoods of its communities. Preservation of the La Plata Basin is essential for protecting the region from flood and drought, and preserving the quality of life of its inhabitants. Click here for the programme's website and for the latest information.
"The mangroves were choking, gasping for air. When the dam was partially opened, they could finally breathe again. It was the breath that the animals, the fish in the rivers, the crabs, shrimps and oysters had all been craving."
On the northeast coast of Brazil, activities have been underway since 2007 to develop and extend the port of Suape. The port is being developed partly to support oil drilling along the Brazilian coast. The project is controversial because of the disastrous impact it is having on the natural environment, the rivers, the mangroves, marine life and the people who have lived in the region for many generations. Together with Fórum Suape, specially set up to combat the development of the port, Both Ends has been working for almost ten years to protect the rights of local communities in and around Suape. Now there has been a breakthrough – literally. In August of last year, a controversial dam in the Rio Tatuoca that was destroying the mangroves and the aquatic life in the area was partially dismantled. We spoke to Mariana Vidal,* project coordinator at Fórum Suape, about how that came about and what changes have taken place in the area since.
The Netherlands is a major business partner to Brazil and has not been deterred by the record of human rights' abuses by Bolsonaro's government, nor by the coup d'Etat against the president Dilma Rousseff in 2016. How do the Dutch economic ties with the Brazilian political and corporate elites affect the Brazilian population, in particular indigenous peoples, nature and the global climate?
The Pantanal, the world's largest freshwater wetland, is suffering exceptionally devastating forest fires, mostly caused by human activities. Over the past few months, an area as big as Northern Ireland has burned down. Both ENDS's partner organisations call for attention for this ecological and social disaster.
Dutch pension money is invested heavily in companies that contribute to deforestation in the Amazon region and the Cerrado savanna in Brazil, such as soy, animal feed and beef companies. This is concluded in a report published today by Profundo, commisioned by the Fair Finance Guide, Hivos and Both ENDS. All ten pension funds that were examined invest in these types of companies, with the ABP pension fund and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn on top with investments worth EUR 580 million and EUR 383 million respectively.