Fight for rights: Surfers from the mouth of the Rio Doce take part in hearing in Brasilia
“The Linhares coastline used to be known for being a surfing paradise and it became so because of the Samarco and Vale muds and the crime that has befallen us.”
The lament comes from the voice of Hauley Valim, a surfer who lives in the town of Regência, on the northern coast of Espírito Santo, where the Rio Doce flows.
Last Tuesday afternoon (09), Hauley, representing the Regencia surfing association (ASR), accompanied by Paulo Sérgio Samarçaro, Paulinho, also a surfer affected, resident of Pontal do Ipiranga and representative of the local surfing association (ASPI), were received by the External Commission for the Supervision of Dam Breaches and Renegotiation, at a public hearing in the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia, to discuss the situation of water sportspeople affected by the mud from the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana. The public hearing was requested by Congressman Hélder Salomão (PT-ES).
In addition to those affected and representatives of the Regencia and Pontal do Ipiranga surfing associations, representatives of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (Movimento de Atingidos por Barragens – MAB), the Ministries of Sport and Tourism, the Espírito Santo Public Defender’s Office, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office and the State Government were also present.
Those affected gave speeches about the struggle for recognition of the category as affected. And they brought elements of the tireless search for fair and comprehensive reparation. After all, being at sea is a right.
For Hauley Valim, from the Regencia surfing association, as a victim and resident of the community: “We need to look at this category with its due importance. Today Brazil has more than five world surfing titles, we have four world champions. The Regencia wave is considered one of the ten best in Brazil. And there’s this environmental crime which is drastic, dramatic, which affected the community and hit this wave, and to this day we haven’t been recognized as being affected.”
It’s been almost eight years since the Fundão dam burst, and to this day the entire production chain that existed as a result of the surfing is fighting for recognition, taking money out of their own pockets to participate in hearings, spaces for dialogue and demonstrations, which makes the suffering even worse.
According to Hauley, the dam collapse triggered the collapse of an entire economic structure in the town of Regencia. “There has been a disruption of a healthy and safe organism through contamination, not only of our bodies and minds, but which has devastated us through doubt, anguish, through sadness, depression, suicide and death that can be mapped in our communities, and with it, this whole emerging production chain. Stores were closed and our equipment deteriorated as a result of not being used. We have lost jobs. We have technicians, we have judges and surf teachers, and everyone’s income has been drastically affected,” he said.
On the occasion, a systematized document was handed over with notes on the whole situation. Congressman Hélder welcomed the demand. “You can count on us. We’re going to include surfing and the entire production chain, which were severely impacted by the environmental crime in Mariana, in our report and work to ensure that they are included in the renegotiation,” he said.
Paulinho, from Pontal do Ipiranga, regrets that he can’t encourage his daughter in sport, so that she can develop as he did. “There’s no way I can continue surfing. I don’t have the courage to let my own daughter go into the sea to surf. She won’t be able to develop in the sport like I was able to, I was even an athlete,” she said.
Another point that confuses him is the lack of clarity in the transmission of information in the community. “What worries me a lot is deliberation 58. We managed, if I’m not mistaken, to be recognized and in 2020 we were withdrawn, we lost the deliberation. So there’s a lot of doubt for everyone in local society.”
Marta Sobral, representing the Ministry of Sport and Minister Ana Moser, says that the federal government is committed to acting to guarantee support for the safe resumption of surfing.
The Ministry of Sport is aware of the gradual resumption of sporting activities in the Regencia region. It is essential that this resumption takes place with the necessary security to guarantee the physical and emotional integrity of all the athletes and the community in general. Rest assured that the Ministry of Sport is committed to contributing and providing all the necessary support to help rebuild their lives and re-establish their activities,” he said.
Surfers dive and glide over the water, usually on the waves of the sea, but unfortunately, in the case of the Linhares coast, the activity has been taking place in the mud. It’s also the surfer who tastes, feels and smells the mud. Public defender Rafael Portella spoke of the lessons he has learned over the seven years he has worked at Foz do Rio Doce.
“I learned in my seven years working on the Rio Doce disaster that surfing is a thermometer for institutions, for everyone. The surfer, being in pure water, is the first to suffer the impacts of the tailings and to warn other categories, other communities, about the harmful effects,” he said.
In short, the surfers highlighted the urgent need for the category to be recognized as affected, for the sport and its professionals to be valued, and for the entire chain to which surfing is linked. Whether in Rio or at sea, it is our right to live with dignity. For fair and full reparations, now!