knowledge for sustainabilityA new look at the Itajaí Valley
knowledge for sustainability A new look at the Itajaí Valley
Bunge Foundationknowledge for sustainability A new look at the Itajaí Valley First print (digital version) São Paulo 2009
Jacques MarcovitchChairmanCarlo LovatelliChief Executive OfficerCláudia CalaisSocial Responsibility ManagerAnna BarcelosCommunications CoordinatorAv. Maria Coelho Aguiar, 215 Bloco D 5o andar l l05804-900 São Paulo SP l ltel.: (11) 3741-1288 fax: (11) 3741-1044 email@example.com
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie This book is dedicated to the people of the Itajaí Valley, whose entrepreneurship and community spirit have been essential tools for meeting challenges. To those who died, to those who survived, and to those who are still to come, the heirs to a more sustainable Valley.
We thank all the people who directly or indirectly helped usto check the contents of this book.
to feed ideas is to sustain the worldThe world is aware. In various regions of the planet, extreme climatic eventssignal that there is something very wrong in the way we interact with theenvironment. Although humanity is not and should not be held responsiblefor all the great natural disasters over the last years, a question remains: howmany deaths could have been prevented if the affected regions had countedon better urban settlement policies for high-risk areas, better early warningsystems for disasters, better emergency action aid programs, better ways tospread information and knowledge?Are we prepared to live on this planet? Or are we just contributing to theproblem?This book proposes these questions, especially in the light of one recent extremeevent in the Itajaí Valley area, in the state of Santa Catarina. The rains, floodsand landslides, which occurred in November 2008, were responsible for 70,000homeless people and over one hundred dead. This was viewed as the greatestclimate disaster in the state’s history and one of the most serious catastrophesin the country’s history.It was also one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of Bunge Alimentos(Bunge Foods) — whose headquarters are in Gaspar, one of the most affectedtowns of the Itajaí Valley — and the Bunge Foundation, which takes a very activerole in the public schools of the region. During those tragic weeks in November,we collaborators and those responsible for both organizations became directlyinvolved in the events. And we tried to help the national mobilization for aidingthe victims and recovering the region in different ways.The Knowledge for Sustainability: Itajaí Valley project is the most recent
collaboration of the Bunge Foundation in this respect. With the emergencyover, the victims aided, one year later there are still families living in shelters,with much to rebuild and, what is most serious, at the same risk of new floodsand landslides. Thus, both the book and the documentary, as well as a seminarand a discussion series, which are part of the Knowledge for Sustainability:Itajaí Valley project, begin with the assumption that the challenge now is nolonger a question of emergency, but one of structure.Why did this tragedy happen? To what extent could the human element ofthe Itajaí Valley — with its lifestyle, history, cultures and agricultural practices— have contributed to this terrible event? And, especially, how to prevent newdisasters? Above all, this project is mainly oriented towards the present and thefuture, the here and now, and from here onwards.That was the attitude we from the Bunge Foundation took towards the challengeof sustainability in Brazil and worldwide. Valuing the past, acting in the presentand contributing to a sustainable future.Some of the proposals presented here by experts in different sciences can helpto radically restructure human occupation of the Itajaí Valley. Some of themcould be models for use in other similar regions, or at least as a starting point.Of course, none of them are intended to have the last word. There are differentpoints of view, different experiences and different interests at play, but thesecan lead to a point of convergence.What is important is to start the dialogue. Propose discussions. Feed ideas. Thisis only the first, but necessary, step for us to be prepared. Jacques Marcovitch, Chairman of the Bunge Foundation Sérgio Waldrich, Chairman of Bunge Alimentos (Bunge Foods)
contentsman facing nature 013 the valley 031 the weekend 053 joining forces 073 rebuilding 093knowing to sustain 123
THE ITAJAÍ VALLEY, IN THE STATE OF SANTA CATARINA, EXPERIENCED ONE OFTHE GREATEST TRAGEDIES IN ITS HISTORY IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER 2008.ON THE WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 22 AND 23, AF TER 51 DAYS OF NEARLYCONTINUOUS RAIN, ENORMOUS LANDSLIDES AND DOWNPOURS CHANGED THEFEATURES OF THE REGION.
Hillsides slid down and destroyed houses, schools and hospitals. Barriers of debris fell on roads and highways, making it impossible to reach many places. Entire neighborhoods were displaced by the high speed of huge mud waves. Light and telephone poles were knocked down, leaving thousands of people without communication and in near total darkness. Rice plantations were flooded; crops were devastated, and the frightened cattle had nowhere to hide. At the end of the following week, 49 towns were declared to be under a state of emergency, fourteen under a state of public calamity, and Santa Catarina counted over one hundred dead, thousands of homeless and 1.5 million people directly or indirectly affected. The scene was devastating and the community didn’t know how to react, even with the help of the Federal Civil Defense and the Army, which were promptly summoned to the region.24
One of the towns hit by this tragedy was Gaspar, on the banks of theItajaí-Açu River, and the headquarters of Bunge Alimentos (Bunge Foods).The events mobilized the immediate attention of Bunge staff, which askedfor its Management Crisis Committee — formed by professionals fromthe company’s various departments — to deal with employees and familymembers affected by the situation. And, soon after, all company unitsactively participated in donation campaigns inside the country and abroad.Bunge became part of a national mobilization that included other companies,governments and civil society.At first, the actions responded to an emergency challenge, but, after somedays, it became clear that the challenge was far greater and that the emergencywas far from over. Rebuilding houses, repairing bridges, or resurfacing roadswould not be enough. More had to be done. We had to rethink the ways inwhich we dealt with land, rain, river, housing, and forest issues. 25
the challenge of reconstruction In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, whose winds reached speeds of 142.92 mph (230 km/h), hit the southeastern coast of the United States and devastated New Orleans, the American jazz capital, in the state of Louisiana. Seen as the greatest climate disaster in U.S. history, it moved the whole world and triggered a serious crisis in the Bush Administration. But the lack of preparation for emergencies on the part of the world’s most powerful country is a situation sadly shared by most other countries on the planet. In the same year, the Amazon region faced its worst draught in forty years. The region that has 15 percent of the world’s drinking water faced a desolate scenario, with dry rivers and igarapés (small water channels that stream off the main rivers), boats stranded on sand banks, tons of dead fish and completely isolated populations, with no way to move around, no water to drink, or food to eat. On October 10, the government of Amazonas declared a state of public calamity in all municipalities. Approximately 250,000 people were affected.26
However, in 2009, the North and Northeast of Brazil were plagued bycontinuous rains and floods of historic proportions from rivers such asthe Negro, in the Amazon region, and the Poty, in the state of Piauí. Over600,000 people were affected in six states: Maranhão, Ceará, Piauí, Pará,Amazonas and Bahia.In all the cases, mobilizations for rain and flood victims were organized withthe purpose of sending food, water, medicines, furniture and other essentialgoods to them. However, in all the cases, it was clear that, although essential,the initial mobilization was not sufficient. To be effective and sustainable, it hasto be extended and changed into movements for rethinking the relationshipbetween man and the environment and proposing a positive and creativeagenda that combines scientific knowledge with hands-on experience. Thisis so because to bring more harmony to the planet and its population of over6.8 billion souls, we must learn to hear the messages of nature and prepareourselves to deal with them. 27
knowledge for sustainability Itajaí Valley How to go back to the Itajaí Valley’s devastated areas? What to do with the lots of land that vanished under the landslides? Is it possible to rebuild in the same place? What kind of crops are more appropriate for the slopes? Bananas? Peanuts? Eucalyptus? None of the previous above? Can houses occupy the river banks? What to do with the schools that were destroyed? And what about the hospitals? Where to take people who are still living in shelters? What should we do when the river rises? And when it doesn’t stop raining? Many questions came up in the months following the tragedy. The answers are not simple and are not yet known, but they are urgent. Less than one year later, in September 2009, new rains stormed into the towns of the state of Santa Catarina (and of the neighboring state, Rio Grande do Sul), when the damages caused by floods and landslides last November had not yet been totally repaired. Again, the answers will not come from emergency measures. This requires a broad and deep debate among scientists, the private sector, government and civil society so that joint solutions can be found, which take into account the countless variables, consider the multiple needs and rely on sustainable bases. The challenge is enormous, but not impossible. To help to achieve it, the Bunge Foundation created the Conhecer para Sustentar: Vale do Itajaí (Knowledge for Sustainability: Itajaí Valley) project. As its name suggests, it starts with the culture and scientific knowledge about the valley to arrive at proposals for a sustainable recovery and reurbanization. The purpose is to gather and spread knowledge and the experience of experts from different disciplines — climatologists, geologists, biologists, urbanists28 — and, based on this repertoire of skills, provide solutions that minimize the
social, economic and environmental impacts of the past tragedy to help usto deal with the current situation and prevent future occurrences.It is a project designed to last, just as the path to sustainability is long-lasting.The initial steps have already been taken. The first step was to create asustainable urban development project for a neighborhood in the town ofGaspar, which will provide shelter to many of the people who lost theirhouses and those who are at risk. Undersigned by the office of architect Indioda Costa, this project is being enabled by a partnership between Bunge, theBunge Foundation and Gaspar City Hall, and also with the support of othercompanies and public agencies. The second step involves the publication ofthis book, the launch of a documentary and a seminar cycle. These efforts areaimed at sharing what was learned after months of reporting, featuring thepoint of view and the wisdom of so many people. And the third step will beto rebuild the Angélica Costa Municipal School in the same neighborhood,adopting eco-efficient procedures, in 2010.The purpose is that both the reconstruction of the neighborhood and ofthe school become references for promoting successful and sustainablepractices; they should also inspire other projects, in other places, increasingtheir range and helping to outline the future steps towards a more consciousand mature relationship between man and his environment.But, to reach our tomorrow, we must look at our origins. We must know thepath followed by the Itajaí Valley and learn from errors and achievements ofthe past. Only by doing so will it be possible to pave the way for a solutionthat makes sense for the region. For that, let’s go back some years, moreprecisely, to the mid-nineteenth century. That is when the story we are goingto tell begins. 29
Settlement of Blumenau, July 18, 1864.THE FIRST YEARS1850. ELEVEN MEN, FOUR WOMEN AND TWO CHILDREN CROSS THE ATLANTICIN SEARCH OF THE GREAT PROMISE OF AMERICA. THEY BROUGHT IN THEIRBAGGAGE DIFFERENT SKILLS IN WOODWORKING, BRICK MAKING, WEAVING ANDIRONWORKING, BUT THEY CAME TO EXERCISE A NEW PROFESSION: THEY WOULDBE THE FIRST SETTLERS OF A LAND IN SOUTHERN BRAZIL. SOME 72 DAYS AFTERLEAVING HAMBURG, GERMANY, THEY ARRIVED AT THE PORT OF BARRA, IN SANTACATARINA. THE CALENDAR MARKED SEPTEMBER 2. ACCORDING TO REPORTS, ITWAS A SUNNY DAY.
Hermann Bruno Otto Blumenau, founder of the settlement that gave originto the city of Blumenau, mid-nineteenth century.
The seventeen immigrants were hired by HermannBruno Otto Blumenau, a German from Hasselfeld whohad already been to Brazil in the name of the Society for theProtection of German Immigrants in order to learn about thesituation of the German settlers and study the possibility of sendingnew immigrants.At that time, Europe was undergoing a deep, serious social and economiccrisis, and America’s horizons were the hope for many landless and joblessmen and women. Blumenau became especially interested and decidedto cross the Atlantic after hearing enthusiastic reports from the Germannaturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, who had taken part in some expeditionson the continent. After disembarking in Brazil, in 1848, Hermann Blumenauvisited settlements in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, among themSão Pedro de Alcântara, founded in 1829 by immigrants from his nativecountry. From there he went on an 80.78-mile walking tour (130 km) toSantíssimo Sacramento do Itajaí, the current municipality of Itajaí, at themouth of the Itajaí-Açu River.He had heard about the “great river” and about the fertility of its banks;together with his fellow countryman Fernando Hackradt, he planned anexploratory trip. Thus, guided by Ângelo Dias, of mixed Portuguese and Indiandescent, the so-called caboclo, both embarked on canoes that took themupstream, towards the unknown. The trip was an adventure — the regionwas wild and inhospitable, known only by native people and colonial scouts,the so-called bandeirantes —, but many of these surprises and dangers wereminimized by the fact that Ângelo was both a native and a very skillful canoeist.The Itajaí-Açu was a rush of torrential waters, fed by rivers and streams,bordered by a thick, dense forest rich in hardwood timber. Blumenau wasfascinated and felt that he belonged here. He came back from the expeditionwith an idea in mind: ask Brazil’s imperial government to grant a concessionto create a settlement.Concession awarded, he sent for the first immigrants. 35
THE CHALLENGES OF SETTLEMENT “For the most part, the immigrants who came to that region were not immigrant settlers: in fact, they worked in different professions. At first, it was a matter of survival and, from then on, when the land was providing the means for survival, they undertook the activities they had been trained for, and which they knew about.” Sueli Petry, director of the Historical Archives of Blumenau On 2nd of September in 1850, the seventeen Germans had no idea of what lay ahead. They did not speak the local language, the men were not used to felling trees, and the women had no idea of what to do with cassava, yam, sweet potato, corn and the other fruits so plentiful in the new land. Adaptation was difficult, many wild animals and countless hordes of mosquitoes preyed on the first settlements on the banks of the Itajaí-Açu River. Air humidity was high, and the rains were continuous. Moreover, there were the Xokleng and Kaingang Indians, the old inhabitants of the region, with whom the Germans were in immediate conflict. These first experiences were so remarkable that Hermann Blumenau wrote a kind of manual for future immigrants, describing the positive and negative aspects of the new world. In that document of 1851, he made a set of recommendations, spoke of the customs, of the language, of the laws, and of the climate, talked about the problems and praised the exuberance and fertility of the land, pointing to various possibilities for growth. His strategy worked, as the German settlement in the Itajaí Valley attracted many immigrants over the following years and, even before completing its first decade of existence, there were already nearly 1,000 settlers there. Gradually, the first generations of immigrants could finally leave behind the subsistence activities and find work in their own professions. According to the Encyclopedia of Brazilian Municipalities, edited by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in 1860 the settlement founded by Hermann Blumenau had a population of 947, three brickworks, one earthenware factory, and one each for vinegar, beer, cigars, a bakery, a sawmill, 47 sugar mills and 33 cassava flour mills.36
But to deal with the everyday routine of private enterprise was not easy.The same river that had been so lavish as a source of food and means oftransportation could also turn into a treacherous neighbor; the Itajaí-Açuflooded with frightening frequency, the beginning of an over century-longhistory of a tense relationship with nature. To make the situation worse, lawswere severe and taxes high. All this led to Blumenau’s decision, in 1860, to sellhis lands to Brazil’s imperial government, which was given responsibility forsettlement affairs, while he remained as settlement director. This remainedso until 1884, the year he returned to Germany forever.His lands, which encompassed an area of 4,092.68 square miles(10,600 km2), were broken down into 42 municipalities. His legacy of work,unity and prosperity ended up being a kind of attribute of the region, aunique and dynamic characteristic of its inhabitants for many generations.As Blumenau returned to his home country, Belgian, Polish, Russian, andespecially peasants from northern Italy traveled in the opposite directionand landed in Brazil, on a journey towards the promised lands of the ItajaíValley.The addition of new faces and cultures would introduce a mélange offeatures to the Valley. Gradually, subsistence crops gave way to rice, peanut,tobacco and sugar cane plantations. The textile industry took off, and thetowns grew in the wink of an eye.And, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, economic development grewenormously and produced equally impressive results. Timber companiesintensified the logging of the hardwood timber that had fascinated thepioneers so much. The forest began to disappear, and today only 7 percentof its original coverage remains. Land occupation was not done in a properway and invaded high-risk areas. The Itajaí-Açu River floods became moredangerous, and the population became more dense everywhere. Houses,condominiums, buildings and banana plantations climbed the hillsides.Until the hillsides came down. 37
Blumenau, November 15, 1879.FROM HEADWATERS TO FLOODSDURING THE W HOLE PROCESS OF OCCUPATION AND SE T TLEMENT, THEITAJAÍ-AÇU RIVER WAS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE TO THE IMMIGRANTS.AS THE FORESTS WERE VERY THICK AND THE SOIL VERY ROUGH, THE RIVER WASTHE SAFEST MEANS OF TRANSPORTING CARGO AND PASSENGERS, OF EXPLORINGNEW AGRICULTURAL AREAS OR LOOKING FOR NEW SPACE TO LIVE AND WORK.AT THAT TIME, THE MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN WHO RISKED THEMSELVESIN THE TORRENTIAL WATERS DID NOT HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE SIZE OF THEHYDROGRAPHIC BASIN THEY WERE SAILING.
Today we know that: from its three main headwaters, in the Serra Geral Mountain Range — in the municipalities of Rio do Campo, Papanduva and Alfredo Wagner — until it meets the sea, at the border of the towns of Itajaí and Navegantes, the largest hydrographic basin in the state of Santa Catarina runs approximately 124.27 miles (200 km). The largest water course in it is the Itajaí-Açu River, formed by the meeting of the Itajaí do Oeste and Itajaí do Sul rivers, in the municipality of Rio do Sul, and fed by over fifty rivers and streams along the distance. Santa Catarina’s basins are relatively small, when compared to other Brazilian basins. The exception is the Itajaí-Açu River basin, whose area is three times wider than that of the others in the same state. And, because its headwaters and main rivers form in higher areas, the waters hit the low-lying areas with great speed. The Itajaí Valley floods were first recorded at the time of the first human settlements in the region, in the nineteenth century. According to Sueli Petry, director of the Historical Archives of Blumenau, “we have recorded over 80 floods above 32.81 feet (10 m) over 158 years. That is to say, one every two years. It is one of the broadest environmental issues with losses that can be counted.” The first great flood in the Valley took place in 1852 and, since then, periodically, the Itajaí-Açu River has been leaving its bed with frightening force and speed. In 1911, it rose 55.44 feet (16.90 m), causing enormous40
damage in the Blumenau region. In 1983, the floods lasted for fifteen days,with the river reaching 50.33 feet (15.34 m). Recorded losses: fifty dead,250,000 homeless and two-thirds of the state under water, with a total of2.5 million people affected.Close and frequent contact with floods taught the population importantlessons. The Civil Defense from the state of Santa Catarina, considered oneof the most efficient in Brazil, developed a warning system for river townpopulations that varies according to the rise of the river water level. Whenthe waters reach a certain level, people have to leave their houses. Thisprocedure worked during the 1987 and 1998 floods, a period in which nodeaths by drowning were recorded.That was why the residents apparently knew what to do when heavy rainsfell on the weekend of November 22 and 23, 2008. Those living close to theriver moved to higher places. Those living on the hillsides checked the risingwater level along the river and looked with astonishment at the water fallingfrom the skies. For weeks there was no respite from the rain falling on theItajaí Valley.But, differently from other years, this time the problem was not just withthe river. 41
“In those days before tragedy, itrained intensely; it rained a lot. It’senough to say that here in Blumenauit rained around 19.69 inches (500 mm)in 48 hours. Some even say that itrained 27.56 inches (700 mm) in theMorro do Baú neighborhood in 48hours. Nearly half the region’s yearlytotal rainfall. We are talking abouthalf a year’s rainfall in 48 hours. Thesoil was already soaked. With suchan overload of weight, there was nomore room for water to be absorbed;the forest could not absorb morewater; banana plantations could notabsorb more water; and urban areascould not absorb more water. Why?Because the soil was completelysoaked”Juarês Aumond,geologist and professor of the RegionalUniversity of Blumenau (FURB)
THE MORPHOLOGY OF THE VALLEYDue to its geological and geomorphological features, the Itajaí-Açu basinoccupies a territory prone to floods. Surrounded by mountain ranges onevery side, it is a water course escorted by continuous mountain facesuntil reaching the sea. The Serra Geral Mountain Range establishes thelimits from west to south; the Moema and Jaraguá Mountain Ranges areto the north, and the Boa Vista, Faxinais and Tijucas Mountain Ranges are tothe southeast.The basin accounts for 16.5 percent of Santa Catarina’s territory, which has apopulation of over one million people. The climate is subtropical, with a hot,very humid summer and high incidence of rain. 45
“The fact that the headstreams ofthe Itajaí-Açu River are at the SerraGeral Mountain Range produces agreat hydrological impact as thisserra — which reaches an altitudeof 2,296.59 feet (700 m) — acts as aprotective fence to retain the moisturecoming from the ocean. On the faceof the mountain range, the air rises,cools and condenses out moisture,which forms clouds and abundantrain precipitation. And as there is amountain range there, the water fallsrapidly, then sudden outburst floodsin the valley of the Itajaí-Açu River arean absolutely common phenomenon.”Carlos Nobre,climatologist from the Brazilian NationalSpace Research Institute (INPE)
From a topographic point of view, most of the Itajaí-Açu basin area is rough,and the valley mountains have a great amount of earth over their rock. Thatis, soil thickness is very deep, reaching up to 131.23 feet (40 m), a result thatreflects the changes in the rock itself over the centuries. The slopes are verysteep and hollow; the V-shaped valleys, deep (1). As a result, when it rains,much water is concentrated within these funnels.Over the course of time, with a lot of water falling upon the sandy earth,the soil gradually became more and more saturated and unsteady (2). Thesituation was further worsened by deforestation (2a) , by the quick anduncontrolled occupation of slopes, by inadequate housing construction (2b)and improper soil tilling, as banana growing (2c) , for example, whose rootsdon’t usually go deep and have little tenacity. All this ended up leaving theearth even more vulnerable than nature had made it. (1)
With the rain volume on that weekend — rains lasted for33 hours, reaching 124 percent over the historical averagefor the entire month of November —, the soil gave in andcollapsed. Waves of mud invaded the valley.And waves of mud leave tracks. 51
“Everything began with the schoolcollapse. It was the Angélica CostaSchool, which I had closed down24 hours before the great landslide.It had 210 students. Three classroomshad already been closed since Marchbecause the hillside behind it wasmoving. But on Friday they called mebecause the hillside had continuedto move...”Luiz Mário da Silva,Civil Defense Director in 2008
saturday, november 22, 2008 On first sight there was not much to worry about. After all, the Itajaí-Açu River was only 12.01 feet (3.66 m) above its normal level. For a river that had already risen 55.77 feet (17 m), that was not much. What was more upsetting was the persistence of rain. There was no respite for nearly two months. And to make things worse, weather forecasts were not good for that Saturday morning. The main weather forecasting agencies warned of more heavy rain throughout the weekend. A cyclonic vortex formed on the upper levels of the atmosphere was on the way; it would join forces with an anticyclone that had remained stationary offshore for days, between Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay. It would be a meeting of two phenomena that do not cause much damage separately, but, together, they can send down a lot of water from the sky. People from the Civil Defense of Santa Catarina were on alert. Small landslides occurred everywhere, and the few telephone lines in municipal offices rang non-stop, with requests for help and information. A little over a week earlier, part of a hillside had tumbled down onto a place called Sertão Verde, in Gaspar, hitting the Angélica Costa Municipal School. Firefighters had already evacuated the school, before the children could suffer any harm. On Thursday 20, it was a slope in the municipality of Benedito Novo that collapsed on a shed, also without victims. And, in the early morning between Friday and Saturday, a gas leak had opened a crater on the BR-470 highway’s asphalt, shutting down the gas supply, causing a fire in an empty house, and56 closing off the federal highway.
Sergeant Evandro did not stop even for a moment. His voice, usually full ofenergy, sounded weak from over exhaustion and his face was marked bydark circles under the eyes. He had not slept a wink the previous night; hewas worried about the weather forecasts and the possibility of flooding fromthe Itajaí-Açu River. Like most of the inhabitants of towns like Blumenau,Gaspar, Itajaí and others in the valley, he was aware of the level of the river.He knew how the scenario could get worse, if the river rose higher. He wasused to emergency situations. He had already witnessed many floods andlandslides in his job, but what he didn’t know was that the worst tragedyever faced by the Civil Defense of Santa Catarina was just beginning.At the end of Saturday morning, the river started to rise and reach an alarminglevel. Close to midday, the river was 13.62 feet (4.15 m) above its usual level.At three p.m., the water level reached 16.40 feet (5 m). Ideas were quicklyexchanged and firefighters led by Sergeant Evandro went on a mission toask people who lived close to the river to leave their houses and move tosafe places. They were instructed to avoid the areas at risk of flooding andlandslides, plus places that offered little or no protection against lightningand strong winds. Another important recommendation was for them to beaware of forewarning signs, such as strange noises, tree decline, and soilmovement or cracks.While people reflected on where to go and what to take with them, TV andradio stations from Blumenau and Gaspar sent reporters and cameramenout on the streets in search of some emergency to record and to help thepopulation whenever possible. At that moment, they went beyond the usualmedia role and became the right arm of the Civil Defense itself. ReporterJota Aguiar, from Sentinela do Vale radio station, was one of the playersin this story. He served as volunteer firefighter, helping to rescue people;later he published a book with the stories he had heard and the images hehad recorded. But this happened months later. At that moment, as daylightdwindled, the rains grew stronger.At the end of the afternoon, the Itajaí-Açu River overflowed the dams and,in a few hours, rose 36.08 feet (11 m) above its normal level. 57
November 27, 2008. Blumenau, Santa Catarina. At six p.m., a strong downpour caused a hillside in Belchior and another in Morro do Baú, neighborhoods of Gaspar and Ilhota, respectively, to collapse. And, all of a sudden, little by little, hillsides, slopes and barriers of debris vanished, one by one, into huge waves of water, mud and rock. And taking with them everything in their way: crops, light poles, bridges, houses, animals and people. At day’s end, the tragedy was set off. 746 people were forced to leave their houses, either because they had been destroyed, or because they were in58 areas of risk. 43 municipalities were hit very hard.
November 26, 2008. Itajaí, Santa Catarina.Still on Saturday, Santa Catarina State Governor Luiz Henrique da Silveiradeclared a state of emergency and, some hours later, a state of publiccalamity.In the Civil Defense classification system, emergency situations mean legalrecognition by public authorities of an abnormal situation brought aboutby natural disaster, with damages that can be overcome by the community.A state of public calamity is also an abnormal situation brought about bynatural disaster, but with serious damage to the community, compromisingsecurity and threatening people’s lives. 59
“It seemed a Hollywood movie.You see that silence, only some dogsbarking, no one around, and ussearching, searching... Clothes hungup there, everyone left quickly.That got my attention becausethe road had now become a crateron the side from where we came;the same thing happened 49.21 feet(15 m) ahead; at that moment, I feltcompletely isolated from the world,me and my staff.”Sergeant Evandro,Civil Defense of Gaspar
the Silva family The Silva family had been warned by firefighters to leave Sertão Verde. They lived in a wooden house painted light green, raised on stilts, the so-called palafitas, with two rooms, a bathroom, living room, kitchen and the so-called “washing” area, the way local people refer to the area where clothes are washed. It had been raining continuously for nearly two months and, on that Sunday, it was no different. Part of the Angélica Costa Municipal School, which was just behind the house, had already fallen and the hillside could collapse at any moment. Mr. José could not sleep well with the noise of high winds, strong rains, and tree branches breaking continuously. At daybreak62 he would go to the house of some acquaintance. The question was: where to go? All the places he knew were drenched, covered in mud, and difficult to access. His wife and five children were worried. At midday, he heard a dry
The house destroyed and the school transformed into a shelter: nightmare and new beginning.bang and suddenly he realized that he was floating on a sea of mud. So, all ofa sudden. It seemed a nightmare. Part of the hillside had collapsed and takenthe house, the furniture, the dishes, and the documents with it. Everythingin a matter of seconds. He thought of his family. He looked sidewaysand saw the wife, a son, and a daughter; he counted four. What aboutthe youngest daughter? It seemed an eternity until he found his smallthree-year-old girl, nearly drowned. He slapped her on the back to expelthe water; the girl coughed, cried and, then, the family joined handstogether and, with patience, all of them were able to escape. His wife 63carried the youngest on her lap and some documents she was able to save.Daiane, the oldest daughter, was able to take two pans and a mug. It wasall that remained.
sunday, november 23, 2008NELSON RODRIGUES, A BRAZILIAN WRITER BORN IN THE STATE OF PERNAMBUCO,WAS AT THE MARACANÃ STADIUM, ON JULY 16, 1950, THE DAY IN WHICH BRAZILLOST THE SOCCER WORLD CUP TO URUGUAY. SOON AFTER THE WINNING GOALGAVE THE TITLE TO OUR RIVAL, NELSON SAID THAT “THERE WAS A DEAFENINGSILENCE” IN THE WHOLE STADIUM. A MIXTURE OF INCREDULITY AND SHOCK. THISSAME SILENCE ENVELOPED THE ITAJAÍ VALLEY ON THAT NOVEMBER 23, 2008.
the Sunday dawned silent and still. People could not believe what they saw. Streets turned into rivers, hillsides fractured, houses hanging in the air, roads vanished, gas stations raised 13.12 feet ( 4 m ) off the ground, rice plantations submerged, hundred-year-old trees snapped as if they were pieces of kindling, animals terrified, men, women and children lost. In the Civil Defense office, it was another night without sleep. Besides the local Fire Department, the Army was also fully engaged. Many military officers were involved in high-risk rescues; others tried to organize requests for help that came through fixed telephone lines, cell phones, and reporters from Galega TV, FURB TV, and radio stations which were broadcasting 24 hours a day. But it was difficult to define priorities. The Brazilian Civil Defense follows a code which establishes that in emergency situations, the places affected are to be divided into four areas of distinct colors. Nobody is allowed to enter the black area because of the risk of imminent death. In the red area, only authorized personnel are allowed, that is, members of Civil Defense, the Fire Department and the Army; in the yellow area, access is restricted; and, finally, the green area guarantees free access to all. Many of the areas affected in the Itajaí Valley were classified as black areas. Numerous firefighters, soldiers, sergeants, lieutenants, and volunteers went to these places to rescue possible survivors. They are the anonymous heroes who emerge in every tragedy. As the hours passed, aid from other states started arriving. São Paulo and Minas Gerais sent helicopters. Rio Grande do Sul sent a semi loaded with mattresses, blankets, food, medicines, and cleaning materials. The Federal Government made available two Air Force aircraft loaded with supplies. There was no sign that the rain would end. Santa Catarina made headlines in the Brazilian press. Climatologists met to discuss and analyze the weather phenomena responsible for the catastrophe.66 Biologists and geologists did the same. The streets, roads and alleys of the
Itajaí Valley were full of stories about people that experienced momentsthat seemed more like an action movie.Near midday, at the request of a telecommunications company, JuarêsAumond, a geologist and professor with the Regional University of Blumenau(FURB) left his house in Blumenau to assess the risk of the transmission towerfalling. He made a detailed report on tower conditions and his adventurebegan upon his return to the town. I was coming back via Gaspar, driving very slowly because I couldn’t see even 16.40 feet (5 m) in front of me. As I crossed the downtown area, I saw that the hillside where the church is located had disappeared and become a huge waterfall. Then I became aware that there was no paved road anymore. I looked at the sides and saw a sea of yellow water; I began to worry and sped up, trying to follow a straight line. Further on, hillsides began to collapse in front of me. They were streams of mud. I then drove the car, zigzagging to escape the mud flowing down the slope. At a certain moment, a light truck appeared, moving in the opposite direction. The driver said: “Don’t go any further because you’re not going to get through”, I answered: “In that direction you won’t get through either!” But if we stayed there, both of us would be buried. He then followed his route and I, mine. When I arrived in Brusque, nothing else could be done; I was detained in a kind of island formed at the entry of the completely flooded town. I was stuck there for six hours waiting for the water to recede so that I could finally go back to Blumenau.During the time Professor Juarês was stuck in his car, the cell phones ofthe members of the Management Crisis Committee of Bunge Alimentos(Bunge Foods) rang continuously, advising each other of the need to finda strategy of action. The committee is formed by key people from variousdepartments, who can be contacted to solve crisis and emergency situationsat any time – day or night – including weekends and holidays. It is a diversegroup of people coming from all the fifteen units of the company in Braziland its members are empowered to make important decisions. In Gaspar,this group is especially active due to the historical background of floodsin the Itajaí-Açu River. The first step was to check if there had been fatalvictims among employees. With a negative answer, the next step was toensure safety in the factories and to deliver material and psychological help 67
to employees who had lost family members or their homes. Soon after, help was extended to the whole community. At the end of Sunday afternoon, the municipal shelters were already crowded with victims of the rain. When the municipal department heads noticed that facilities would be insufficient for the number of people, school buildings were reserved. Until that moment, there were approximately 7,000 victims who, all of a sudden, had to leave their comfortable houses and suddenly take up quarters in classrooms, together with people they had never seen before. At 9 p.m., the second gas leak took place on the BR-470 Highway. But now it was much stronger than that of Saturday morning. The noise was maddening and damage worse still. The asphalt broke up and traffic was interrupted. Part of the state was completely isolated, without light, gas, or telephones. An island in the midst of the storm. The weekend ended with Brazil in bewilderment. At the same time, 500 military troops or 500 military personnel, sent by the Federal Government, were arriving in Santa Catarina. They brought four aircraft, seventeen trucks and twelve boats.68
the days afterBetween November 20 and 24, approximately 300 billion liters of water fellon the Itajaí Valley, an amount sufficient to supply the entire city of São Paulofor three months. Just for comparison, if this volume of water were pouredinto a tower with a square meter base, the construction would have to be186,411.36 miles (300,000 km) high — nearly the distance between theEarth and the Moon. It was too much water for the soil to hold, especiallya sandy soil that had been soaked during so many days of rain.Until the end of the first week, about 4,000 landslides had been recordedin the entire state. The number of homeless — including those who losttheir houses and those who could not return to them — reached 70,000.The number of fatal victims surpassed the three-digit mark. About 63 ofthe 293 municipalities in the state were affected, among which fourteentowns, including Gaspar and Blumenau, were declared under a state ofpublic calamity. With the Port of Itajaí paralyzed, Brazil lost about 370million reais (R$) in exports.At the time, nobody knew how long the situation would last. But, in themidst of all these infinite and irretrievable tragedies, there was hope.A feeling of solidarity was present, its greatness, as always, manifestingitself in donations coming from all over Brazil; in volunteer actions thathelped in the rescue operations, in the transportation of people, and in theentertainment of children in shelters; in the alliance among governments,companies and civil society. So there were strong reasons to believe inbetter days ahead. 69
what to do during floods or landslidesFollow Civil Defense official bulletins through radioand TV stations, which will keep you informed aboutthe levels of the river and procedures to be adopted.If your house is hit, or if it is in a place where thereare already flood forecasts, do as follows:Gather food, clothes and documents, and take themto a safe place. WasteStart removing furniture and more useful appliances like • Whenever possible, use boxes, stoves and refrigerators. newspapers and other paper forFind the Civil Defense shelter of your region, taking with collecting waste material, lateryou food for 24 hours, dishes and knives, forks and spoons, dumping them into holes especiallyportable mattresses, bedclothes and pillows, clothes and opened for this purposematerial for personal hygiene, medicines and objects • Keep waste (feces, urine and of personal use (glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc.). garbage) from contaminating water, food and people • In case of building an emergency toilet, dig a 31.49-inch-wide hole with a depth between 3.280 and 6.561 feet (80 cm and 1 to 2 m) • This hole must be covered with boards for foot support, and have a surrounding protection for preventing rainwater from enteringOccurrence of Landslides Foodor Collapses • Don’t consume food that has been • Leave your house quickly exposed to flood waters• Ask for the help of friends • Avoid consuming raw food and neighbors • Boil foods for 10 minutes whenever • Depending on the seriousness possible Garbage of the situation, call the Fire • Opt for the use of smoked and salted • Garbage must be collected in Department or the products, canned food in general, containers placed at designated Civil Defense sweets and pickles trash collection points• If you discover that your house • Check if canned food has some • As soon as they are full, they must is safe, remove all debris and change in quality, such as a change be dumped in previously prepared start repairing the damages of color, smell or taste. In case of holes in the ground and covered doubt, it is best not to eat the food with soil • Avoid packaging without label or • Remember: the correct disposal of identification, reject packaging that garbage will prevent flies, rats and is broken, creased, rusted or stuffed cockroaches from emerging, and, • Fruits and vegetables should be thus from transmitting diseases left to soak and washed with water • In places where regular garbage containing sodium hypochlorite collection service is not available, (5 drops for each liter of water), if garbage disposal will meet the they are not to be cooked criteria established for shelter care
Dead Animals Water Tank Cleaning Safety against Lightning• Bury them whenever possible • Empty the water tank • Keep away from central heating • If the number of deaths is too high, • Sprinkle and brush the walls with units and large metallic objects spread lime over the animals’ corpses sodium hypochlorite • Don’t use appliances such as: irons, and then cover them with earth • Let the clean water flow into the hairdryers, TV sets, telephones, etc.• If they are already in an advanced tank, rinsing the walls • Don’t get near wire fences, metal state of decomposition, you can • Remove the water clotheslines, telephone and power burn the corpses, spreading ethanol • Fill the water tank to the top and lines, metal plumbing, and towers or gasoline over them and setting add sodium hypochlorite in the or electric networks fire to them. proportion of 1 liter per every 1000 • On the street, look for shelter in • Important: in the event of finding liters of water buildings or non-metallic structures human corpses, immediately notify • Open all faucets and stopcocks to • If you are working with a tractor or the Police and the Fire Department sanitize the piping other agricultural implements, stop (telephones: 190/193) or the • As soon as the water tank empties, and look for shelter nearest authority refill it with clean water. • Stay inside the car when on a trip • If the water is not treated, add a • In case there is no shelter nearby, lie 10g chlorine tablet per each water down on the ground tank of 1000 liters • Keep away from the top of hillsides or open areasCare To Be Taken WhenReturning Home Drinking Water• Check carefully whether your home is fit to live in (cracks, pillars, etc.) • If the water is not treated, boil • Pay special attention when it for 15 minutes removing furniture, since snakes • Collect rainwater in a clean and other poisonous animals receptacle for consumption frequently invade houses • To treat water, use one of the • Check and clean out the cesspools solutions below:• Before turning on electric power a) sodium hypochlorite: 2 drops 71 again, clean and dry circuit breakers, per each liter of water switches, plugs, connecting plugs, b) a chlorine tablet, which can lamps and domestic appliances be found in public health clinics
where to begin?IT WAS A MOUNTAIN OF SHOES. OF ALL COLORS, TYPES AND SIZES. OF LEATHER,SUEDE, WITH BUCKLES, TENNIS, BOOTS, AND WELLINGTON BOOTS AS WELL. CLOSEBY, A LARGE NUMBER OF BLACK PLASTIC BAGS, WHICH HELD BLOUSES, SKIRTS,DRESSES, SWEATSHIRTS, COATS, SWEATERS, TROUSERS, SHORTS, PAJAMAS,SOCKS, MORE ARTICLES OF CLOTHING THAN ONE COULD IMAGINE.
With the roads closed off, the first batch of donations was shipped by air — by helicopter and cargo aircraft — but when the highways opened, they began to be transported by semi trucks. The tragedy in Santa Catarina triggered an overwhelming, organized movement of solidarity. It was quickly formed into an intricate network of collective aid that translated into shoes, clothes, food, and money in cash. As of Friday, November 28, 2008, the bank accounts opened in the name of the Itajaí Valley victims accounted for over 3 million reais (R$). On Tuesday, November 25, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva flew over the region and, looking with astonishment at the images before him, announced an aid package of 1.049 billion reais (R$) for reconstruction of roads, bridges and other items of public infrastructure. He also facilitated withdrawals from the FGTS (Severance Pay Fund) and credit lines for reconstruction of houses. And he sent 278 tons of food by Hércules aircraft from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) , in flights from Brasília, the Federal District, to Santa Catarina. At Navegantes Airport, which serves the Itajaí Valley region, over fifty volunteers were ready to help the military forces unload the food. Municipal mayors and department heads tried to establish priorities. At that moment and faced with such a scenario, everything was a matter of the utmost urgency. People in the shelters needed not just physical and material help, but especially psychological support. At the same time, the streets and roads needed to be opened so that traffic could flow again, ensuring access to isolated regions and neighborhoods. Also the light and communication poles that had been knocked down by the rains had to be rebuilt. And then there was a need to dredge the streams and to deliver more medicines and beds to the hospitals to care for so much people.76
November 25, 2008. Ilhota, Santa Catarina.The Brazilian Air Force arrives on the scene.
December 18, 2008. Gaspar, Santa Catarina.The challenge of making aid reach nearly inaccessible places.
Where to begin? That was the question many mayors asked themselves.They decided to set out two parallel lines of action priorities: first, to insurebasic care to people in the shelters and, secondly, to open roads and streets.Machines began operating, as soon as the rains lessened, trying to cleanup all that mud from the landscape.As for the shelters, city governments contacted companies of theregions and asked for donations and transportation. Thus, an alliancewas established among various businessmen to deliver essentials directlyinto the hands of over 70,000 homeless people.Bunge Alimentos offered its sports gymnasium in Gaspar to store thedonations that came from everywhere, including those from other companyunits all over Brazil. Its logistics network was directed to transporting allmaterial to the two shelters in Gaspar, to the 35 in Blumenau, and toothers in neighboring towns.Volunteers were active wherever necessary. A nurse made her own housefeel like a medical facility for those rescued from flood waters. Even standingankle deep in water, she provided first aid and fed the homeless, beforethey went to the shelters. A fisherman used his boat to make rounds onthe flooded streets to help rescue people and animals. A teamster wentto a local radio station to announce that his truck was at the disposalof the community. Luiz Hostins, a lover of off-road trails and member ofthe Jeep Club of Brazil, lent his 4×4 car, his courage and his knowledge ofthe region’s trails to help many firefighters and military officers to reachplaces that people would swear were inaccessible. Bunge Alimentos(Bunge Foods) employees came early to the sports gymnasium to helpin the difficult job of sorting out: trying to match pairs of socks andshoes, which at that point were totally separated from one another.A 16-year-old student from Rio de Janeiro deposited his monthly allowanceinto the account opened for the people of Santa Catarina. A businesswomanfrom Ribeirão Preto, in São Paulo, donated fifty large bottles of drinkingwater. And, in the capital city of São Paulo, SOS Santa Catarina wasorganized with shows by musicians such as Ed Motta, Chico César and LeciBrandão; the price of admission would be a liter bottle of mineral water 79or a blanket.
Thus, with seemingly disconnected actions, a giant andinvisible network among unknown people was formed.A net that was woven by sharing a decision: to do thebest to help. Millions of people were involved.Men and women of different professions and lifestyles.Physically close or distant. Civil society, the privatesector and government agencies joined forces as theyhad only a few times in Brazilian history.
above the differences Between October 5 and 26, 2008, new mayors and city council members were elected throughout Brazil. In Santa Catarina this situation proved especially complex. In the end, new local government officials were elected in many cities and the mayors who had been making decisions in the name of the population would be replaced by those newly elected who would only take office on January 1, 2009. This was a period of political transition in the midst of a time of fundamental definitions for the Itajaí Valley. Pedro Celso Zuchi, the elected mayor of Gaspar at the time of the tragedy, was forced to rethink everything planned for the city for the next four years. During the first week after the tragedy, he convened his team of trusted advisors and together they reviewed the strategy of their government program in the light of the events. What would the reconstruction plan be? Faced with so many priorities, what should be done first? How could the city budget be reallocated taking reconstruction needs into account? At the same time, Zuchi, of the PT (Workers’ Party) offered then-mayor Adilson Schmitt of the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) his help and solidarity. At that moment, the initiatives went beyond partisan politics: they were the citizens of Santa Catarina who had come together to think about future possibilities for the city they share. This unity beyond political party affiliation also extended to the mayors of other municipalities, who found opportunities for common solutions in this dialogue experience. At the same time, the state governor, Luiz Henrique da Silveira (PMDB), found support from his peers in other states, as well as from the Federal Government. Meanwhile in Blumenau, another alliance of adversaries was shaping up to help face the tragedy. On Monday, November 24, 2008, the telephone of82
Galega TV director rang. The call was from rival FURB TV director, proposing tocreate a TV and radio solidarity network that would unify broadcasting andoptimize reporting and equipment allocations to extend the area of coverage.The request was accepted immediately, and the two broadcasting stationsjoined with TV Legislativa to create a chain of stations, which became arms ofCivil Defense and of the press offices of the city governments, broadcastingofficial news releases and passing on requests for help from the population.They began to broadcast 24 hours, alternating studios and announcers.To achieve complete coverage, reporters spent sleepless nights away fromhome and because damage to antennas prevented some live transmissions,many professionals used their cell phones as broadcasting devices. In theirsearch for news, many went into areas of risk alongside the Army, CivilDefense and Fire Department personnel, putting their lives in danger to savethose of other people.Jota Aguiar, a reporter from Sentinela do Vale radio station and a volunteerfireman, collected so many stories that he wrote a book, Relatos de umatragédia (Reports of a Tragedy), which, as its name suggests, contains movingstories from people who lived through the events of November 2008. In oneof the accounts, Sentinela do Vale Director Leopoldo Miglioli reports thatthey spent 211 uninterrupted hours on the air, nearly nine days worth.Simultaneously, sites and blogs were constantly being created to pass oninformation, organize donation campaigns, suggest traffic routes, report onroad conditions and closely follow the first steps in reconstructing the ItajaíValley. For the first time in the region, the alternative media served as aneffective source of information to bring people together and broadcast tothe world what was happening there. 83
Life in shelters:after the tragedy,frailty and waiting.
Mônica’s shelterAna Maria spends most of her time alone, seated in a corner. When askedwhy she is sad, she answers that she misses her dolls. Amanda, a talkative,lively blonde comes over and shows the girl her colored wax chalk drawing.“This is me, this is my dog and this is my house”. On the paper, in additionto what she described, there is a huge sun that takes up half the sheet.Ana tries out a small smile. Amanda reaches out her hands and invites her,“Want to paint?”Ana Maria and Amanda are in Mônica’s Shelter, currently housed at theNorma Mônica Sabel Basic Education School, in Gaspar. It has been fourmonths since the tragedy. Families share the classrooms. Curtains madefrom sheets and held with masking tape cover the windows to keep outthe light, and there, among the donated mattresses, pillows, bedspreadsand clothing, the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents andchildren spend their nights listening to battery-powered TV and radio kepton 24 hours, sometimes simultaneously. To delimit the territory reserved foreach family, furniture or lined-up desks are sometimes used as partitions.Women take turns preparing meals in the kitchen. There is no lack of food.Plain flour, sugar, rice, beans, margarine, cans of milk, oil, mineral waterand cookies are the basic ingredients of the menu, which varies accordingto the creativity of the cook on duty. To avoid fights about dividing upcleaning tasks, rules were worked out together and written on a paperhung on the wall. 85
On the school patio, there is an exhibit of drawings done by children in workshops led by volunteers from the Comunidade Educativa (Educational Community) program, run by the Bunge Foundation in conjunction with the Municipal Secretariat of Social Action and coordinated by teachers and social workers. Twice a week, men and women laden with guitars, paper, colored pencils, brushes, water colors, scissors, glue and books show up. They spend a few hours of their day entertaining children and adults. Telling stories, organizing sessions for drawing and painting, and singing and dancing. A bit of leisure and entertainment to help disperse the enormous cloud of sadness that hovers there. There was heavy traffic in the shelter in the first days. Amidst the coming and going of volunteers and temporary residents, a military police corporal was assigned to provide security, to make sure that rules were followed and avoid possible misunderstandings. Civil Defense personnel were constantly bringing in boxes and more boxes of donations: clothing, food, blankets, mattresses, armchairs, tables and chairs. As time passed, visits became less frequent and food donations, which had been arriving daily, dropped to once a week. The rooms began emptying out. And the halls reverberated with the echoes of children’s voices. Some families had their houses released by Civil Defense and left. Others were transferred to shelters which were better prepared to receive them. Those with no place to go remained. They had lost their homes and their land. They literally have no ground to stand on. They are awaiting a decision that is out of their hands. While they wait, they watch their children draw, paint, sing and listen attentively to the stories that volunteers Marilda or Ângela tell. At these times, even those who feel most desperate and hopeless, smile. Perhaps, deep down, they know that even after the heaviest rains, the sun always rises again.86
The sun appearsin the children’sdrawings, dispersingthe cloud of sadness.
January 7, 2009, Gaspar, Santa Catarina. let’s rebuild During the entire month of December, the towns of Santa Catarina which had been affected by the floods, torrents of rain and landslides set the stage for many efforts at solidarity. Government authorities, the private sector and civil society organized to meet the countless demands coming from all sides. In Blumenau, what became known as Operação Esperança (Operation Hope) was organized. This movement brought together over 3,500 civil servants from various departments and agencies, such as the Civil and Military Police, the Army, the Fire Department and Civil Defense. All the members, independently of their functions, worked hard during the thirty days that followed that weekend.88 Aid in the form of donations arrived from every corner of Brazil and the rest of the world. Day after day, the residents of the Itajaí Valley began to
January 7, 2009, Gaspar, Santa Catarina.erase the marks of the waves of mud. Groups of people organized to cleanup houses, build new rooms and house more people, to replant the fieldsand open the streets. Very few people stood by with their arms crossed. If,on one hand, one could see a devastated region, on the other, intensedetermination was evident. It was visible and palpable.On December 31, everyone wore white. Mayors, municipal departmentheads, civil defense directors, military officers, firefighters, men, women andchildren. All met in the main square of Blumenau to mark the moment ofreconstruction. This was a pact made with a good, loud sound. The clockon the square marked one minute after midnight on January 1, 2009 whenthousands of people held hands and shouted together: Let’s rebuild!The echo of their voices still resounds. If Hermann Blumenau were around,he would certainly be proud of the will and courage of the people who 89inherited his lands.
“We went through moments thatmade us think about the purposeof our lives. We chose to live in thisvalley; it is our cradle. We are joiningforces and strengthening our bonds.We are a people who struggle; wenever give up. We are going to writea new history, and become the cityof everyone’s dreams. Rebuildingis a task for everyone, the duty ofevery citizen.”Sérgio Waldrich,President of Bunge Alimentos
learning a new relationshipIN JANUARY OF 2009, THE SUN BEGAN TO SHINE AGAIN ON THE ITAJAÍ VALLEY.LIKE THE OTHER TIMES THEY HAD SUFFERED FROM FLOODS, MANY FAMILIESBEGAN TO CLEAN UP THEIR HOUSES. WHILE WOMEN AND CHILDREN SCRUBBEDTHE FLOORS AND WALLS STAINED WITH BROWN MUD, FARMERS TRIED TODISCOVER WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR DEVASTATED CROPS.
At universities and research centers all over the country, ex p e r t s p o r e d ove r b o o k s , s y n o p t i c m a p s , a n d o t h e r documents to try to decipher the tragedy. Diagnoses would be essential for future predictions. In the city offices, mayors accumulated mountains of paper on their desks. The department heads’ phones rang non-stop with priorities coming in from all over. Developing an action strategy was like playing a game of chess. Millions of variables appeared simultaneously, but it was necessary to choose a first step. Opening the streets and highways. Rebuilding bridges. Removing barriers of debris. Recovering light poles. Moving families lodged in city schools: classes had to begin. Expanding hospitals. Reopening businesses. Beginning recovery operations for the port. Removing buildings along the river. Isolating the hillsides vulnerable to new landslides. Preventing residents from returning to their houses when located in an area of risk. Defining areas of risk. Building new houses. On what land? Investing in Civil Defense and the Fire Department. Replanting native trees. Recovering riparian forests. Rethinking the countryside. Rethinking the cities. In those first days of 2009, it became evident that one of the greatest challenges to rebuilding was to design an action plan that included short-term, medium-term and long-term activities for each municipality, taking into account the multiple variables involved. Another big challenge was acquiring the human and financial resources to make this strategy viable.96
Given the magnitude of the tasks and the plurality of actions, it becameclear that the public authorities would not be in a position to act alone.It was necessary to organize a multilateral dialogue among representativesof state and city government, the private sector and civil society, and thescientists among them.It was not the time to lay blame or flee from responsibility, but rather totry to build alliances that could help understand the processes that ledto the tragedy and undertake action to avoid or minimize possible futureproblems.But how to do that?The scientists were clear: it would be necessary to find a new way of treatingthe land, a new vision of how to occupy cities and towns and deal withnature. It is not enough to rebuild based on the rationale of former times. Itis necessary to adopt and disseminate behavioral change so that everyonecan learn and relate in a more mature and conscious way to our big home,the planet.The Itajaí Valley offers an opportunity to usher in this new relationship. Weneed to be open to it. This is a common cause with something to say toeach of us. Mayors, department heads, teachers, students, housewives,professionals, business people, firefighters, scientists and volunteers.We are all one. 97
how to rebuild? In Braço do Baú, in the neighborhood of Ilhota, Evaldo Kremer reset the fenceposts of a destroyed fence with his own hands. This was after having remodeled and painted his entire house. He was also assessing whether he will be able to recover his rice fields, which were buried under a thick layer of mud. His banana and eucalyptus plantations were seriously damaged. The flour mill, inherited from the time his father owned the land, turned to ruin. At the time, one could only see an enormous tongue of land cutting through the five hectares that belonged to Mr. Evaldo. And surrounding the tongue, mud.98
Mr. Evaldo Kremer, one of the small farmers of the Itajaí Valley. An entire life on the land provided no answers to the tragedy.The Itajaí Valley is a region of small farmers. Large farms are rare. Themost common sight is small farms cultivated with perseverance and careby descendants of Germans and Italians who arrived a century and a halfago. These are people who were born and grew up with the land, andestablished great intimacy with it over the long succession of springsand summers. But, even being so close, they did not have a sufficientunderstanding of the tragedy that befell them, their neighbors and theregion. They did not know what to do. How to rebuild? They are stillwaiting for answers to this question. 99
good examples “Companies like Bunge and organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Municipal Association of Small- and Micro-Sized Companies (AMPE) and the Commercial-Industrial Association (ASCI) suspended their business activities to become involved in providing services to the population. This gives us in the government a certain comfort, because sometimes it’s hard to know what to do.” Pedro Celso Zuchi, Mayor of Gaspar Among the negative outcomes, some positive lessons were drawn from the tragic events of November 2008. People were different after that weekend. Many actions were organized to extend the mobilization and establish a reconstruction plan. Business people from the local media, who had joined forces to provide public services to the population in the first days after the tragedy, organized a weekly TV program called “Rebuilding the Valley”, and geologists, biologists and psychologists were invited to give their opinions and propose long-term solutions. Bunge forged an alliance with local business people to get reconstruction funds for the Nossa Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro Hospital and for the Angélica Costa School in Gaspar. In the first month one million and seven hundred thousand reais (R$) were raised. Moreover, it created a program to provide psychological and material support to the affected employees. Its transportation network was put at the service of Civil Defense to distribute the rest of the donations, which still filled the gymnasium, to the most distant towns. In the hardest-hit cities, the municipal department heads organized campaigns that sought dialogue and alliances with town, business and community leaderships to carry out long-lasting rebuilding activities. The Ministry of National Integration sent some of its professionals to Gaspar to give courses and seminars to civil society. The idea was to train community100
leaders who could act as an arm of Civil Defense in case of new floods andcollapses.While business and government officials organized the activities needed tomanage post-crisis activities, geologist Juarês Aumond and biologist LauroBacca, both from Blumenau, resolved to take off on their own to rural andurban areas of the Itajaí Valley to carry out a scientific diagnosis of thecollapses and landslides.They visited various places and were able to see on site what their studies hadalready pointed out: the areas with preserved forest were the least affected.“In the Serra do Itajaí National Park, for example, there were no significantlandslides despite the very intense rain there. In places with larger stretchesof native forest especially, such as the park called Parque das Nascentes,nothing happened,” says Lauro Bacca.According to him and to Professor Aumond, the great challenge for theauthorities was to enforce the Federal Forest Code. “You can’t create aspecific code for each state. The states have to respect Brazil’s environmentallaws. Among other things, this means not building along the river banksor on the hillsides. We have to act in harmony with nature, not against it,”concludes Bacca.Scientists who were hundreds of miles from there also shared this opinion.Their words were fundamental to making land and city managers deeplyreflect on that. 101
a new look at the landSUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE“WHEN WE TALK ABOUT AGRICULTURE, WE CANNOT REFER JUST TO THE PLANTSUNDER CULTIVATION, BUT ALSO TO THE SOIL, WHICH IS ONE OF THE MOSTPRECIOUS NATURAL RESOURCES THAT EXIST, JUST AS IMPORTANT AS WATER.” Carlos Eduardo Cerri, Ph.D. Professor of Environmental Science
The Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ) is one of the most respected institutions in all of Brazil. For 108 years it has been a campus of the University of São Paulo, located in Piracicaba, a city 111.85 miles (180 km) from the capital city of São Paulo. Specialists in a variety of different areas of agronomy earn their degrees there. These are professionals whose lives are dedicated to trying to understand the earth and improve man’s relationship with it. One of them is Professor Carlos Eduardo Cerri, of the Department of Soil Science. Cerri attentively monitored the extreme events that had occurred in the Itajaí Valley, and, like his colleagues, was also surprised at the impact of the rains and at the collapses and landslides. He shared the opinions of the Santa Catarina specialists: before undertaking isolated activities, it is necessary to rethink the entire region, which includes the sensitive points, urban settlement and agricultural practices. In the case of agriculture, all agreed that it is necessary to provide incentive for agronomists and farmers to work together, to take the results of years of research and study to those who live day-to-day on the land. Bringing together the theory and the practice. This exchange is perhaps the most important point in the land recovery project for the Itajaí Valley. Agriculture is one of the basic pillars for sustaining our planet. It produces food, fiber, meat and in recent times, fuel. In several countries, Brazil among them, these practices can have strong environmental impact. A lot of CO2 gas is released into the atmosphere when the land is plowed for planting, and this is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. There are large amounts of carbon in the soil – three times higher than in the atmosphere. When the land is intensively worked, either by machine or by hand, carbon decomposes and is released into the air in a gas form. On the other hand, there is no way to plant without “disturbing” the soil. “What we can do is try to be ‘more gentle’,” says Cerri. To try to solve the delicate equation to find a balance between agricultural production, necessary to our survival, and environmental preservation, also104
necessary to our survival, there have been worldwide numerous researchprojects and some conservationist agricultural practices, which, accordingto Cerri, are appropriate to the Itajaí Valley.No-till farming is one of these solutions. This activity proposes keepingvegetable cover on the soil the entire year, especially in-between harvestperiods of the main crops. This cover may be leftovers from an earlier crop(straw) or a leguminous crop such as beans, for example. This works as aprotective layer, which in addition to creating an environment favorableto developing the nutrients necessary for soil fertility, also contributes toslower absorption of rain, thus preventing erosion. Moreover, plantingdifferent crops in the same place helps to create a richer environment forthe soil, with more microorganisms interacting.Another conservation practice is to plant stretches of woods made up ofdifferent native species in swaths throughout the farm. Their roots forma tangle which allows water infiltration into soil, thus preventing erosion.This rule of diversity also holds for riparian forests, located along rivers andcreeks.“Further, tree tops of different dimensions help to break the wind intensity,as well as to provide shade, useful for several crops such as bananas, forexample,” says Carlos Cerri. Another benefit is that they withdraw carbonfrom the atmosphere by photosynthesis, contributing to minimizing thegreenhouse effect.Finally, one of the most common recommendations of scientists has todo with the aptitude of the earth for cultivating species. Some types ofcrops adapt better to specific soil conditions than others. This is the caseof bananas, whose shallow roots hold better in flat, rather than hilly,terrain. “If someone wants to grow bananas on hillsides, it is fundamentalto establish the rule of diversity, growing species with deeper roots inthe same area in order to balance the structure of the soil bed,”suggests Cerri.Diversity on the soil surface as well as below. This is one of the main lawsof nature. And it is the main advice of specialists. 105
No-Till Farming:A “More Gentle” Way of Disturbing the Soil.This is a technique designed to plant seeds in undisturbedsoil (without previous plowing or grading), with previouscrop residues (straw) left on the soil surface. There are manyadvantages to using this technique, not just to preserve theenvironment, but also to increase productivity.• Protection against erosion: the impact of rain on the soil is cushioned by straw (1) , allowing higher water absorption by the soil.• Decrease of greenhouse gas: the less the soil is disturbed, the less CO2 (and other gases) is released into the atmosphere.• Cleaner agriculture: less need for operations, reduces the use of fuels (diesel) in farming.• Soil fertility: through decomposition of organic matter, the straw cover releases nutrients which will be absorbed by plants, as well as providing the proper environment for the development of beneficial microorganism (1) .No-till farming is one of the most important environmentalefforts in Brazil in response to the recommendationsof the United Nations Conference on Environment (Eco ‘92)and the Brazilian Agenda 21.
(2) (1)Diversity of species and crops:greater abundance and security for the land.“In the case of areas of low fertility, an initial planting of nitrogen-fixingherbaceous plant species (for example, crotolaria and Canavalia ensiformis– the Brazilian broad bean) produces green manure increasing the chancesof successful recovery. After this first planting, seedlings of arboreal species,with the necessary diversity for recovery, should be planted.” Carlos Alfredo Joly, Ph.D in Botany from UNICAMP“Forests with different native species have tangled roots in the upper soillayers with a broad diversity of structures and depths (2) , which makes thehillsides more stable.” Carlos Alfredo Joly, Ph.D in Botany from UNICAMP 107
GLOBAL WARMING AND AREAS OF RISK The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) , whose main headquarters are located in São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo, is a reference throughout the world. Its mission is to produce science and technology in the areas of space and earth environment, including weather and climate forecasting, and to analyze global climate changes. Ever since the tragedy in the Itajaí Valley in 2008, specialists from INPE have been meeting to discuss the causes, study correlations with past events, and try to predict future events related to global warming. A technical note on the diagnosis of the causes and impact of the rains in Santa Catarina in November 2008 was issued — a document which analyzes the reasons for these events from a multidisciplinary point of view. Carlos Nobre, an internationally known IPCC climatologist, and one of the major names at INPE, says that despite the November 2008 precipitation having been heavier and longer than usual, two issues that set off the tragedy were deforestation and unregulated land occupation. “Studies point out that with global warming, rain tends to increase, not just in the Itajaí Valley region, but in other regions of Brazil. That’s why, if we don’t plan more rational land use, other tragedies of similar dimensions can occur.”108
By rational land use is meant the non-occupation of areas at risk of collapse,such as hillsides and slopes and areas close to rivers. In the case of the ItajaíValley, this is an especially big challenge, since there is little land that is notsteep or along the banks of water courses. This is a serious issue, which if,from one point of view, seems to be a summary condemnation of any kindof occupation of the Valley, on the other hand, it cannot be ignored. In anycase, it serves as a warning for further occupation.“We have to do a very large mapping of areas of risk, see which of themhas become more susceptible to the increased rain intensity and even todrought, which occurs as a result of the lack of water supply to the largecities. This is urgent! At first, this rethinking might be more laborious andmore expensive, but it will certainly be of great value to the future, since itwill help to prepare Brazil for this moment of very intense climate changethat we are living through,” concludes Carlos Nobre. 109
a new look at the city URBAN PLANNING The Institute of Technological Research (IPT) is one of the largest Brazilian research institutes and acts in a multidisciplinary manner, encompassing different sectors, such as energy, transportation, the environment, construction, cities and security. Álvaro Rodrigues dos Santos is a geologist who was the IPT director of planning. Presently he is a senior researcher with the Institute and consultant in Geological Engineering, Geotechnics and Environment. For him, one of the great challenges to the municipalities of Santa Catarina is to plan responsible urban growth. To do so, he reminds us of the importance of implementing the City Statute, promulgated in 2001, which has considerable advances in efforts towards urban planning, including mandatory monitoring of municipalities with populations over 20,000 which are required to design and apply a Master Plan, understood as a basic tool for development policy and urban expansion. In his opinion, a Master Plan alone does not take into account the geological and geotechnical characteristics of the land. His proposal is that each municipality adopts the Geotechnical Map as a mandatory reference for all urban land occupation activities. “The Geotechnical Map contains information on the geological and geomorphologic features of a given region with respect to the kind of land use, defining the areas that can and cannot be occupied. It is essentially a planning tool, which must include at least two types of professionals in its design: a geologist and a geotechnical civil engineer,” says Álvaro. The planning to which Álvaro refers was the conceptual basis for the project of an eco-efficient neighborhood that is being developed for Gaspar.110
MODEL PROJECTAt the end of 2008, the phone rang in the Rio de Janeiro office of LuizEduardo Indio da Costa. It was the Bunge Foundation staff wantingto make a proposal: to rebuild the Angélica Costa Municipal School inGaspar, on an eco-efficient basis. He listened and agreed to find out moreabout it.Indio da Costa is one of the best-known architects in Brazil. Born in RioGrande do Sul, but living in Rio de Janeiro, he was for many years architectat Rio de Janeiro City Hall, responsible for creating various projects thatcarried a sustainable vision for large urban downtown areas such asRio-Cidade Leblon and the Pier Mauá, which is part of the Guided RecoveryProgram for the port area of the city. He reports that these experiencestaught him to be an urbanist.After several meetings, the partnership with the Bunge Foundation wasagreed to, and work began. This was in early 2009. The architect’s firstmove was to make the first of a series of trips to Gaspar, accompanied byprofessionals from his office, to study the region and specifically, the sitefor rebuilding the school.When they arrived, they saw that rebuilding in the same place where theschool stood was totally out of the question. The hillside was still movingand any strong rains could cause new collapses.The group, along with geologists and agronomists hired by the town ofGaspar, studied other areas in the same neighborhood, but noticed that agood part of Sertão Verde was at risk. You couldn’t build a school basedon sustainability in a geologically unstable place. And that was the momentthat the project began to grow. 111
In conversations with government authorities, the Bunge Foundation and Bunge proposed the granting of an area where not just the school, but an entire neighborhood, could be rebuilt, based on principles of sustainability. Bunge would hire the Rio de Janeiro office for a neighborhood design project and, in conjunction with government, hoped to build an alliance for implementing it. They received an area of 1,117,724.46 square feet (103,840 m2) from the state government along the banks of the Itajaí-Açu River. Its geographic location provided its provisional name: Left Bank. Located only 1.24 miles (2 km) from Sertão Verde, the “Left Bank” neighborhood is in a higher region, and thus not subject to flooding. It is also geologically more settled and is adjacent to an Area of Permanent Preservation — 328.08 feet (100 m) wide. The vacant areas cover more112 than a third of the total area: 38.7 percent.