Last month, International Rivers and coalition partners took our message on river preservation to Brasília. 

On June 22, the Brazilian Coalition for Rivers, the Angá Association, International Rivers, and the Federal University of Southern Bahia hosted a three-hour event in the Chamber of Deputies on river protections as part of a month-long congressional session on socio-environmental issues, called the Virada Parlamentar Sustenabel. The event, entitled “Rivers Ask for Protection: Panorama of Brazilian Rivers, Impacts, Environmental Legislation and Perspectives of Legal Protection,” described the gaps in current environmental protections in Brazil and called for stronger protections for rivers at all levels.   

International Rivers’ Flávio Montiel cited the lack of sufficient protections for the current degraded state of many of Brazil’s rivers, and applauded efforts of the Coalition for Rivers to guarantee the protection of rivers in law: 

“Although Brazilian legislation is extensive, we don’t have a specific law that can protect our rivers in an integrated way. The existing water law is utilitarian and overly focused on the economic uses of rivers, and overlooks the benefits that properly conserving and managing rivers provides.”

Eunice Kerexu, the national secretary of Environmental and Indigenous Territorial Rights from Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, shared that her culture identifies the waters and rivers as the community’s grandparents. She contended that the Indigenous concept of “being water” is important to the conversation on environmental preservation, because water is life. 

With generous support from UNESCO, the panel brought together representatives from the six Brazilian biomes, who spoke about the socio-environmental threats facing their rivers and communities. The assembled audience additionally heard about the extensive damage that proposed dam and mining investments would cause in the absence of strong and enforceable laws to protect rivers. These include a proposed cascade of new dams on the Tapajós basin, and the Belo Sun mining project in the Xingu basin, which would be the largest open pit mine in the Amazon.

Other notable speakers included representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. The event included attendees from the Public Ministry and representatives from Brazil’s river basin committees. 

Although legal protections for rivers would not offer a panacea for the destructive projects still in the pipeline in Brazil, they would create the foundation for environmental and governance policy that is sorely needed to effectively protect and restore rivers in one of the most critical regions for climate change and water security in the world. 

The full list of speakers at the event comprised Marcelo Queiroz (Federal Deputy), Edel Nazaré Santiago de Moraes (National Secretary of Traditional Sustainable Rural Development of the and Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change), Eunice Kerexu (National Secretary of Environmental and Indigenous Territorial Rights, Ministry of Indigenous Peoples), Juliano Baiocchi (Republic Attorney and Coordinator of the 4th Chamber, Public Minister), Joana Angélica Guimarães da Luz (Rector, Federal University of Southern Bahia), Ângelo Lima (Executive Secretary, Observatory of Water Governance), Father Edilberto Sena (Founder and General Coordinator, Tapajós Vivo), Solange Ikeda (Coordinator, Instituto Gaia), Isidoro Salomão (Coordinator, Associação Cultural e Ambiental Fé & Vida), Iury Paulino (National Coordinator, MAB), Josefa de Oliveira Câmara da Silva (Coordinator, Xingu Vivo Para Sempre), Gustavo Malacco (President, ANGÁ), Malu Ribeiro (Public Policy Director, SOS Mata Atlântica), Vitória Leopoldina (Legal Consultant, Coalizão Pelos Rios).

Watch the full seminar (portuguese):