Itaguaí’s growth is cause for concern among locals and environmentalistsJun, 07, 2022 Posted by Gabriel Malheiros
The Port of Itaguaí’s growth in the Metropolitan Region of Rio de Janeiro has been causing controversy in the city. After the Federal Government announced the construction of a new terminal of 312 thousand square meters, at the cost of R$ 3 billion, the city hall, residents, and environmentalists in the region expressed concern about the consequences of the expansion.
The city hall sent a letter to the Federal and State governments asking to call off the works. According to experts, the new terminal could intensify environmental degradation in the region, causing increased pollution and harming the population’s health.
The concern about the health of the residents of Itaguaí comes, according to municipal authorities, from the increased flow of iron ore at the port, which could reach 30 billion tonnes per year.
Such a high volume of the material allocated to the site could yield severe consequences, warn residents and environmentalists. According to Haroldo, a fisherman in the region, iron ore can contaminate water, beaches, and fish. “Amid the loading process, iron ore falls into the water. There’s no way around it. Then, with the wind, it falls into the water. Since it’s dust, it ends up on the beaches when it’s windy”, said the fisherman.
For Haroldo, who lives off shrimp fishing, pollution is already harming those who depend on the sea. According to him, with Itaguaí’s growth, things should get worse.
Ore in the mangrove
About 85% of the country’s iron ore is shipped through Itaguaí. The material is placed on ships in the city, from where it goes to the buying countries. Fishermen report that the ore released into the water ends up in the mangroves.
“Look at the amount of ore here, look, falling into the mangrove… water polluted with all this ore going towards the mangrove. This is where the largest amount of fish is created. It is where we fish shrimp. It is our greatest wealth,” commented the fisherman.
Even the mayor of Itaguaí, Rubem Vieira de Souza, commented on the problems that ore thrown into the sea could bring to the city. According to him, a person who dives in Coroa Grande, for example, can come out of the water like the character in the movie ‘Silver Surfer.’ “I think Coroa Grande and Madeira Island inspired the Silver Surfer movie. The person who enters the sea comes out just like the Silver Surfer with so much ore in his body”, said the mayor.
“Another ore terminal would greatly increase pollution, harming the community’s health, which already suffers from respiratory issues as a result of the ore suspension. Furthermore, another terminal would exacerbate the situation and endanger our fauna, flora, and biodiversity in general”, said Shayene Barreto, Itaguaí’s city secretary of environmental affairs.
For biologist Mário Moscatelli, the history of degradation of Sepetiba Bay is similar to that of Guanabara Bay.
“Unorderly urbanization, a lack of general sanitation, and the transformation of the hydrographic bay into a sewage ditch. All of this sewage and waste is making its way to Sepetiba Bay. In addition, historically, great changes have taken place in the hydrodynamics of that bay, both for the viability of the Port of Sepetiba as well as by the macro-drainage process of the local hydrographic basin.”
“One would think that the history of Guanabara Bay has taught us something useful so that we do not repeat the same mistakes in Sepetiba Bay, added Moscateli.
In addition to the issues that may arise as the Port of Itaguaí expands, the city managers are concerned about the fiscal situation. The mayor claims that the city only receives a portion of the taxes collected through iron ore trade activities.
“We lose a lot in this collection process, as most of the charges levied on these activities are state charges collected by the state governments from where the cargo originated, mostly Minas Gerais. While Itaguaí sells and stores iron ore, the product is extracted in Minas Gerais,” said the mayor.
See below the track record of container exports via the Port of Itaguaí from January 2019 to April 2022. These data are from Datamar’s DataLiner.
Container exports through the Port of Itaguaí | Jan 2019 – Apr 2022 | WTMT
What those involved have to say
In a note, the State Secretariat for Economic Development said that implementing the terminal is a federal responsibility conducted by Companhia Docas do Rio de Janeiro.
According to them, the state government has been working to implement a natural gas route, which could make the Port of Itaguaí one of Rio’s natural gas outlets.
The Federal Government did not comment.
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