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    Wind farm in Ceará threatens aquifer and harms fishing, say quilombolas

    September 15, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      On the coast of Ceará, the production of energy from wind, a source that has been growing in the face of the climate crisis, is criticized by quilombolas who live near a wind farm in the city of Aracati. The enterprise is run by the company CPFL Renováveis.

      According to experts, NGOs and residents of the Cumbe quilombola community, the installation of the equipment - which is like a giant wind turbine - has caused environmental impacts and social problems. The MPF (Federal Public Prosecutor's Office) questions the way in which the project was authorized to operate.

      The company CPFL claims to strictly follow the impact monitoring conditions set out in the license for the farm, which was installed in 2008.

      "The wind farm has caused several problems. It occupies a field of dunes that has been partly leveled and compacted, and roads have been built. Underneath these dunes, there is an accumulation of fresh water and these changes diminish the capacity of this place to be a water reservoir," says Soraya Vanini Tupinambá, a fisheries engineer with a master's degree in coastal area management.

      According to her, who is also the coordinator of the Terramar Institute, this is a worrying impact in a state like Ceará, which has almost 90% of its territory in the semi-arid region.

      CPFL, for its part, says that the project was installed after studies submitted for analysis by the competent environmental agency in the state, which issued the implementation and operating license.

      The MPF, on the other hand, questions the regularity of the licensing process carried out by the Ceará government. The Public Prosecutor's Office claims that an Environmental Impact Study should have been carried out. The license was granted with a Simplified Environmental Report.

      The agency also questions the permit on the basis of a technical report drawn up by Ibama, according to which "most of the areas where the two wind farms would be installed have a marked occurrence of mobile dunes and dunes with fixing vegetation, characterizing them as Permanent Preservation Areas".

      The report also states that "a significant portion of the area earmarked for the power plant includes vegetation made up of trees and shrubs that constitute an environment of significant landscape value".

      When contacted by the report, the Ceará government said that the Secretariat for Racial Equality defends the recognition, titling and safeguarding of quilombola territories and that the Cumbe community has not filed a complaint with the department.

      Semace (State Environmental Superintendence), in a statement, said that inspections are being carried out to ensure compliance with environmental requirements and that there are no registered complaints or environmental infractions at the project.

      The wind farm in the city of Aracati is one of the largest in Ceará, with 67 wind turbines and occupies an area of approximately 1,540 hectares.

      Next door, the quilombola community of Cumbe has 210 families. The site was recognized by the Palmares Cultural Foundation in 2014.

      According to the coordinator of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's Latin American climate program, Elisângela Soldadelli Paim, wind farms are presented by governments and companies as possibilities for reducing social inequalities and creating jobs. However, she says, the environmental impacts and directly associated conflicts have been getting worse over the last two decades.

      "This project [in Aracati] threatens the material and symbolic ties of the residents of the Cumbe quilombo to their territory. One example was the destruction of archaeological sites during the installation of the wind farm," he says.

      On this subject, CPFL says it has developed the Archaeological and Community Museum, to enable the repatriation of archaeological remains. The construction was carried out after the signing of a TAC (Conduct Adjustment Agreement), in agreement with the MPF and with the participation of Iphan (National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute).

      Another problem cited by Soldadelli is the blocking of the quilombolas' passage through areas that were previously part of their territory. This, she says, has made it difficult to reach the sea or the mangroves to fish and catch shellfish, the community's main economic activities.

      For her, this situation makes environmental racism explicit. "This activity, shellfish fishing, is carried out mainly by women, which also reflects the different impacts on women's lives and bodies," she says.

      One of the people affected is Cleomar Ribeiro da Rocha, a fisherwoman and president of the Cumbe quilombo association. She says that the community has no access to the land where the project is located, since two gates block the entrance to the wind farm, in an area that was previously used by the quilombolas.

      "We say that we've practically been expelled from the areas where we are most active, the mangrove area, the hills [dunes]. These areas have all been taken over," he says. "The construction of the wind farm was really aggressive. There was no respect for the community, for the way of life. There were several areas, such as traditional lagoons, vegetation. It was a huge devastation."

      João Luís Joventino do Nascimento, known as João do Cumbe, also a resident of the quilombo, says that, as well as feeling "surrounded", he is bothered by the noise produced by the wind turbines. For him, the dialog between the community and the company is unproductive when they try to address the problems of the wind farm.

      In a statement, CPFL Renováveis said that Cumbe residents are allowed access freely and that, for the community's own safety, the only fenced areas are the power substation and the operational office.

      At the beginning of September, 110 traditional communities and social movements from all over Brazil sent an open letter to the Chamber of Deputies to denounce what they consider to be environmental and social damage caused by wind farms.

      The organizations expressed concerns about Bill 11.247/2018, which seeks to regulate wind farms in the country. Among the impacts cited are the loss of traditional community lands, worsening poverty and damage to mental health.


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