Participants at The Second Latin American Exchange of Fishermen and Fisherwomen Against the Exploitation of the Sea. Photographs: Valda Noguiera

Brazil’s Quilombos Are Fighting to Save Their Waters From Pollution

The descendants of escaped slaves are claiming their stake against big corporations

Eliete Paraguassu began advocating for her community throughout the country between 2000–2002. Since then she’s represented Ilha de Maré at seminars, public hearings, and city council meetings.
Decades of environmental damage to Ilha de Maré include water and atmospheric pollution, toxic waste contamination, dredging, and pump fishing (fish and seafood mortality) of All Saints Bay, and the destruction of critical mangrove swamps.

A study by Neuza Miranda, professor at the Federal University of Bahia, examined 117 children on the island and proved “90% of children are contaminated with more than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, above what is recommended by the World Health Organization.”

Marizelia Lopes, who goes by , “Nega,” is also a leader in the struggle for Ilha de Maré.
Residents claim organizations like The State Institute of Environment and Water Resources (Inema) and Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) are not enforcing port licensing, degrading regulations, nor promoting risk and exposure assessments for local populations meant to protect them.
Participants bear witness to each other’s collective struggles. From fracking in Colombia to soil contamination in Ecuador, heartbreaking accounts are affirmed.

“Nevertheless, Ilha de Maré and other artisanal fishing communities are on the frontlines facing the most significant risks from oil exposure. Federal, state, and local governments continually fail them and this incident is no different. ”

Nega professes “The governor, our leaders, and the president won’t do anything. They cover up the fact that they want to destroy our livelihoods.”

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