By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil announced on Tuesday a plan for the recovery of the Rio Doce Basin, affected by the massive wave of toxic mud created when two dams at the Samarco Mining Plant broke on November 5th, near the town of Mariana, Minas Gerais.
“This river has along side it one of the largest concentrations of mining and steel companies in Brazil. If this calamity occurred, then we must set an example and recover this river, revitalize it,” said Rousseff during a press conference after a meeting with government officials.
President Rousseff added that a significant part of the recovery will be done and charged to Samarco. Rousseff also stated that officials will be monitoring daily the water quality of cities affected by the mud and those which use the river’s water supply.
After stating for the past two weeks that there was no imminent danger of another two dams breaking in the area of the accident, Samarco officials admitted on Tuesday that the two remaining dams could collapse. The company has stated that it is conducting emergency work on the constructions.
According to officials the mud mixed with toxic residues from the mining processing plant has travelled down the Rio Doce affecting the water supply of cities along the way. There have been reports of fights breaking out over water supply in one of Minas Gerais’ largest cities, Governador Valadares.
Officials say that the mud has now reached the state of Espirito Santo. The governor of the state, Paulo Hartung says that it is still too early to calculate the environmental damage caused by the accident. “The mud is destroying all the fauna and flora along the Rio Doce,” said Hartung.
According to Environmental Minister, Izabella Teixeira, a long-term plan must be created to try to restore the environment. “The disaster is enormous, it is a catastrophe, the worst environmental disaster in the country and we have to take innovative measures to resolve it,” she told reporters. According to Teixeira it will take at least ten years for the river to recover.