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Brazil - Petrobras condemned to pay R$100,000 for damage done to indigenous Amazonian land

Brazil - Petrobras condemned to pay R$100,000 for damage done to indigenous Amazonian land

Contamination of indigenous territory

Contamination of soil, waterways and groundwater by oil residue were discovered in indigenous Kumaru territory, Lake Ualá

MANAUS - Petrobras is to pay R$ 100,000 worth of compensation to the indigenous Kulina tribe, from the Kumaru territory of Lake Ualá, in the municipality of Juruá (674 kilometres from Manaus). The company was condemned alongside the Institute of Environmental Protection of Amazonas (IPAAM) for causing environmental damage to indigenous communities due to oil drilling in communities Porto Mário and Base Uarini during the nineties.

The public civil suit of the Federal Public Ministry in Amazonas (MPF/AM) noticed a series of anomalies in the National Indian Foundation’s (FUNAI) 1996 report. Evidence of soil, waterway and groundwater contamination from oil residue accumulated in puddles, deforestation in the area without the necessary replanting, saturated septic tanks and drains and plastic waste in the open air, were just some examples of the damage left by Petrobas’ exploration in both these locations, near to indigenous villages.

According to the court ruling, the cost of compensation, which is split between Petrobras and IPAAM, has had to be updated and monetarily adjusted since the case filing in March 1999, and increased by a monthly 1% since the decision’s notification date. The federal judge Jaiza Fraxe, who settled the statement, determined that the compensation was to be given to the Kulina people themselves and that the value be split among family chiefs, taking into account the patriarchal model adopted by said community.

In addition to the lawsuit now under review, two chemical, physical and biological surveys carried out under court order in Porto Mário and Base Uarini in 2003 and 2010, confirmed that the damage to groundwater, surface water and soil was the result of contamination from coliform and chemical substances. The reports showed that there were still chunks of canvas, engine remains and glass bottles spread across several areas, open clearings of inadequate reforestation and disregard for sewage and wastewater treatment.

Based on allegations presented by the Federal Public Ministry of Amazonas and on expert diagnostics conducted during the process, the Court recognized Petrobas’s responsibility for its actions and IPAAM for its neglect in light of the unrepaired damage made to indigenous communities. One sentence of the ruling states the following: “Damage to the environment in the affected area is evident, as is the harmful conduct of Petrobras and the negligent conduct of IPAAM, given the lack of measures taken to repair the damage in question”.

The Kulina people

According to the Povos Indígenas no Brasil study, edited and issued by the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), the Kulina live alongside the margins of the River Juruá and the River Purus in Amazonas. As registered by the Alto Solimões FUNAI department in 2011, there are 802 indigenous members of this ethnicity in Kumaru territory, Lago Ualá. In 1995, the Kulina population in the area was made up of 280 people.

ISA’s investigations of the Kulina Indian’s way of life are mentionned in the ruling and provided references for the decision on how compensation is to be divided. According to these studies, “the current lodgings house a maximum of twenty people united around a common Patriarch, surrounded by his grandchildren and children. This is the situation until the latter build their own house and plant the land for themselves, which normally occurs after the couple has had children”.

© - translated by Felix Charnley / original article

Date : 29/05/2015