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Marcos Lima – from Cenarium

MANAUS – The Justice has determined that the Union must provide drinking water to the Indigenous Communities Arara Azul and Esperança, in the municipality of Aquidauana (MS). There are artesian wells at the location, but because the lands are not regularized, the government does not act on site, performing maintenance to ensure water quality.

The Union must provide, within 15 days, the delivery of 50 liters of water per person, daily, by means of water trucks or gallons of water until the local supply is solved with the construction of artesian wells.

The Union has 100 days to drill artesian wells in both communities. The supply of drinking water must be 65 liters per day, on average, for each resident, in addition to installing a water distribution network in the area.

The request was made by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and the Federal Court of Mato Grosso do Sul granted an emergency injunction. The MPF stated that the lack of water supply on indigenous lands, even those not regularized, is a serious violation of fundamental rights.

Before the request of the MPF, by means of the public civil action, the ministerial body even issued a recommendation to the Special Indigenous Health Department (Sesai) and the Special Indigenous Sanitary District (Dsei/MS) to adopt the necessary administrative measures to proceed with the drilling of artesian wells. The Union’s argument, and consequently that of Sesai and the Dsei, is always based on the lack of land title regularization of the lands, despite the fact that the areas are already in the process of demarcation.

“There is sufficient proof in the records that the above mentioned indigenous communities are not being served in their right to obtain drinking water for personal, home, and work use, so that, at least in part, their right to health, full life, and human dignity are being violated by the omission of the Union in providing this essential service. In addition, the indigenous people of the Arara Azul and Esperança communities effectively reside in the area that is the object of the disputed ownership process, being settled there, living in community, producing, as much as possible, and maintaining their culture and traditions, all while the legitimate ownership of the land is being discussed”, said the MPF in its request to the Court.

The Union should also identify all the indigenous villages, regularized or not, located in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, which do not have access to drinking water, through artesian wells or piped water, and water distribution network.

Last year, Law Project No. 1142/2020 was proposed, which cited very urgent measures to support the indigenous people due to the new coronavirus. One of them was to provide drinking water, hygiene, and hospital beds to indigenous people to prevent and avoid Covid-19 contagion in the villages, however, President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed these obligations in the PL.

After the president’s vetoes, Vice President Hamilton Mourão tried to minimize the situation by saying that the indigenous people use the river waters to consume in the villages. In the case of contaminated rivers, that should bring water to the groups. “In relation to drinking water, the indigenous people get their water from the rivers that are in their region. If, by chance, one of those rivers is contaminated by illegal activity, notably mining, with the use of mercury, then water is taken to those groups.