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ECUMENCIAL MISSION VISITS WEST BAHIA AND DENOUNCES WATER CRISIS AND SOCIO-ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Between October 03 and 05, the ACT Brazil Ecumenical Forum (Fórum Ecumênico ACT Brasil: FEACT) will undertake its Ecumenical Mission for the Waters of the Cerrado of Bahia in the west of the state, highlighting its slogan: “From the springs to the São Francisco River, water for life!”  Coordinated by CESE, the advocacy activity is run in partnership with a number of social organizations, grassroots and pastoral movements, with support from the international agencies HEKS/EPER; Christian Aid; Brot für die Welt and Misereor.

Since 2015, FEACT has organized missions in order to increase national and international visibility of rights violations; putting pressure on public bodies towards conflict resolution; seeking greater proximity between the churches and people’s daily lives and reasserting its ecumenical commitment for the defence of human and environmental rights.

A public hearing, an ecumenical celebration and on the spot visits constitute the programme of activities in communities in the municipalities of Barreiras and Correntina.

The region contains the rivers of the Carinhanha, Corrente and Grande basins, the main contributors to the waters of the São Francisco River in Bahia, responsible for up to 90% of its waters in the dry season.  These supply thousands of rural communities and hundreds of Bahian municipalities, as well as those in other states of the Lower Middle and Lower São Francisco valley. However, agribusiness activities (acting with State approval) have contributed to one of the largest water crises in in the region.

To give only one example, through Decree no. 9159 of 27 January 2015, the Institute for the Environment and Water Resources (Instituto do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos: INEMA) granted the Igarashi Ranch the right to withdraw 182.204 m³/day, from the Arrojado River for 14 hours/day in order to irrigate 2,539.21 hectares.  The volume of withdrawn water is the equivalent of more than 106 million litres daily, enough to supply per day more than 6.6 thousand domestic cisterns, each with a capacity of 16,000 litres, in the Semi-Arid Region.  The water consumed by the population of Correntina, approximately 3 million litres per day, only equates to 2.8% of the water withdrawn by the ranch from the Arrojado River.

According to Sônia Gomes Mota, CESE’s Executive Director, it is necessary to collaborate with the populations who fight directly in the defence of this common good.  “We cannot treat water as a commodity or a private good, which is why, by undertaking this mission, we are committing ourselves to solidarity with these struggles and to denouncing existing conflicts”, she confirmed.

“In the west of Bahia, this has become even more important because we have followed the struggles of communities that experience daily the impacts caused by dams and by the agribusiness development model, which poisons and kills, not only river basins, but also the histories and cultures of these people” Sônia emphasizes.

Given this overview of the violation of rights, the Ecumenical Mission aims to denounce the predatory model through which the waters of the region have been used by agribusiness and large corporations; to call on the State to fulfil its role in the resolution of socio-environmental, territorial and water conflicts in the west of Bahia; and to announce another model of coexistence within the Cerrado, based on the defence of water as a common good, agro-ecology and respect for traditional communities’ way of life.

 PROGRAMME

 October 03 – Barreiras (Thursday)

– Public Hearing in the City Council Chamber– 2pm

October 04

Visits to the communities

Evening: Launch of the Book “Os pivôs da discórdia e a digna raiva: análise dos conflitos por terra, água e territórios em Correntina – Bahia” (Pivots of discord and dignified anger: an analysis of conflicts over land, water and territories in Correntina – Bahia) by Carlos Walter and Samuel Britto

October 05 (Correntina)

– Ecumenical Act

– Mission Evaluation

ECUMENCIAL MISSION – WEST BAHIA

Implemented by the ACT Brazil Ecumenical Forum and coordinated by CESE, the Ecumenical Mission for the Waters of the Cerrado of Bahia in the west of the state works with the following partners: the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissão Pastoral da Terra-CPT); the Padre André Institute; the Collective of Common and Enclosed Pasture Lands of the West of Bahia (Coletivo dos Fundos e Fechos de Pasto do Oeste da Bahia); the Association of Lawyers for Rural Workers in the State of Bahia (Associação de Advogados/as de Trabalhadores/as Rurais: AATR); the Youth Pastoral for the Popular Environment (Pastoral da Juventude do Meio Popular: PJMP); the Pastoral for the Environment (Pastoral do Meio Ambiente: PMA); Agência Desenvolvimento; the Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento de Atingidos por Barragens: MAB); the Pe. André Family Farming School (Escola Família Agrícola Pe. André: EFAPA); the Movement for Women United in the March (Movimento de Mulheres Unidas na Caminhada: MMUC); the Indigenous Missionary Council  (Conselho Indigenista Missionário: CIMI); the National Campaign in the Defence of the Cerrado: Without the Cerrado, Without Water, Without Life; Koinonia ecumenical presence and service (Koinonia presença ecumênica e serviço); the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil: CONIC); the Foundation for the Integrated Development of the São Francisco (Fundação de Desenvolvimento Integrado do São Francisco: FUNDIFRAN); the Corrente Verde Environmental Association; the Process of Networking and Dialogue (Processo de Articulação e Diálogo: PAD); ACEFARCA; the Semi-Arid Coalition (Articulação do Semi-Árido: ASA); and the Bahia Department of Public Prosecutions.

The activity is supported by the international agencies HEKS/EPER; Christian Aid; Brot für die Welt and Misereor.

 

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