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A note from Global Justice Ecology Project:

Aracruz Cellulose owns vast expanses of eucalyptus plantations in Brazil that have been the target of protest by indigenous and peasant communities for many years due to the enormous quantities of both land and water required by these plantations.  Aracruz is currently developing genetically engineered eucalyptus trees for future plantations in Brazil.

Fishermen/-women close export harbor of Aracruz Cellulose

Last Friday, 10 October 2008, more than 100 fishermen/-women of the Association of Fishermen/-women of Barra do Riacho and Barra do Sahy, – ASPEBR, closed the access by land to the private harbor of Aracruz Celulose S.A. (ARCEL), called Portocel for the entire day, impeding the entrance of cellulose, destined to exportation.

The fishermen/-women presented a long list of demands to ARCEL and to the municipality of Aracruz. The most important demand was the immediate opening of four floodgates constructed (by ARCEL) in the river (Riacho) to increase its water quantity, because the locking of the river has diminished the water volume, causing the increase of sediments inside the river and the closing of the mouth of the river.

The closing of the mouth of the river creates a desperate situation for the fishermen/-women families because it impedes them to leave their harbor to go to sea (and return), making it each time more difficult for the people who depend on fishery to guarantee their subsistence. On the other hand, the ships which use the sea (which carry cellulose to produce disposable papers in Europe, USA and Asia) always leave the Portocel without any problem.

The problem of the closing of the Riacho river to the sea is being caused by ARCEL who diverted, besides the Riacho river, another four rivers in the region in order to guarantee sufficient water for its reservoir for the pulp mills. The water needed for the pulp mills and cellulose production is enormous: a water demand equal to the what a city with two million inhabitants consumes. Therefore, the Riacho river totally lost its force, causing the sedimentation of sandy particles.

The fishermen/-women demanded the presence of the mayor of the municipality, Ademar Devens, who appeared in the beginning of the afternoon and observed the situation of the mouth of the river, decided to take the demands of the people to the direction of ARCEL. At about 16:00hs, company representatives came to inform to the fishermen/-women that the company was willing to open the four floodgates in the Riacho river, when the tide is low, supposing that this could facilitate the process of (re-)opening the mouth of the river. Aracruz also asked for compensation‚ from the fishermen/-women for the difficult time that the company is passing through: firstly, the lack of water in the pulp mills because of the long dry period in the region- a situation for which the company has a lot of responsibility; secondly, the difficult financial situation of the company because of the high price of the dollar. (It is publicly known that ARCEL realized financial operations with a speculative character that resulted in a loss of around $2 billion.)

With the promise of opening the floodgates, the fishermen/-women decided to stop the protest. Next Tuesday, there will be a meeting between the fishermen/-women, the municipality and ARCEL to evaluate the situation of the mouth of the river and discuss also other demands.

It is worth while to remember that for many years the fishermen/-women asked for comprehension from ARCEL to attend their legitimate demands, but this has been insistently ignored by the company. The next few days will show if the solution presented by the company will solve the problem of the fishermen/-women. If not, the people promised new protest actions. They are tired of promises and measures that do not solve the problem.
Photo courtesy of Alert Against the Green Desert Network.