Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This week, how not to write about the sea of mud? Not the figurative political mud that has taken over Brazilian communications for the past year, but the truly murderous mud that destroyed the district of Bento Rodrigues and took the lives of many of its residents. The sea of mud now threatens to concrete over the riverbed of the Rio Doce, an ecological disaster of multi-secular proportions.
If the doom-saying experts are right, the destruction of the riverbed will lead, inexorably, to the destruction of traditional riverine flora and fauna habitats. Species will disappear, never to return. The course of the river will abruptly change, speeding into unknown territory at increased velocity because there is no more underlying soft bed nor verdant riverbanks to cushion its impact.
The Rio Doce now supplies drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. As of this writing, people in cities and towns on the banks of the river refuse to drink the water because they fear the mud contains toxic matter. Governmental agencies deny this; would you believe them?
As of this writing, the mud bath has already traveled 400 kilometers downstream and has not appreciably slowed down; it threatens to reach the delta and the sea within another day or two. The buffer zone estuary between salt and fresh water will cease to exist.
How did this happen? Samarco, builder of the defective dams, claims there was an earthquake. President Dilma dithered six days before visiting the destruction, and then issued a decree calling the event a “natural disaster”. She knows that is not true, it is an unnatural, disaster made by men.
What has the federal government done other than pretend it was just an accident and lie about the toxicity of the water? It applied a fine of R$100 million to Samarco. Samarco’s owners (multinational mining giants Vale and BHP) are laughing all the way to the bank, as this is pocket change for them.
The Curmudgeon has written dismal smidgens before, but this one is truly saddening.