A historical victory: last Tuesday (14), Brazil’s Senate approved the bill n° 2788/2019, which creates the National Policy for the Rights of Populations Affected by Dams (PNAB, in Portuguese). The text of the bill, which had already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies, will now go to presidential sanction.
The approval happened after a long struggle led by people affected by dam bursts in Brazil. Many of them, who come from different parts of the country, have been in Brazil’s capital city since last week, when the Day of Struggle organized by the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB, in Portuguese) took place. They continued their mobilization while waiting for a decision.
“The next step is President Lula sanctioning the bill. We hope that he promulgates the bill as soon as possible, so that we have, definitely, a law that guarantees the rights of people affected by dams. We hope no more crimes will be committed such as the ones in Brumadinho and Mariana, and many other places around the world. Now we have a parameter in legislation,” said Joceli Andrioli to Brasil de Fato. She is the national coordinator of MAB.
After agreements between the governing and opposition senators, the vote took place symbolically, without any dissenting votes. Last week, the coordination of MAB with parliamentarians guaranteed the approval of the bill in the Senate Services and Infrastructure Committee, the last stage before the text reaches the Plenary.
“As people affected by dams, we are committed to continuing our activities so that this law becomes true and reaches people’s lives, guaranteeing justice and preventing more crimes like dam bursts from happening in our country,” Andrioli added.
Bill 2788 covers the rights of families and the accountability of companies responsible for industrial and mineral production projects and hydroelectric plants. It has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies, but has been stuck in the Senate Services and Infrastructure Committee since April last year. The bill returned to the agenda after an articulation by popular movements with the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
The text of the bill was approved by the committee without changes to the guarantees and duties provided in it. Only editorial amendments were made to separate provisions. The advance of the topic represented a victory for victims of accidents involving dams throughout Brazil, which to this day does not have any specific legislation on the subject.
So far, Brazilian law does not even define the concept of people affected by dams. There are no guidelines establishing rights in cases of dam bursts or other disasters. Besides, there are no rules to prevent abuses. According to PNAB, the companies responsible for the projects will need to fund a program focused on human rights and aimed at populations living in territories affected by dams.
The bill mentions damages that must be taken into consideration so that people and communities are included in the policy. They include the loss of ownership or possession of property, depreciation of real estate, damage to the productive capacity of land, lasting interruption or change in water quality that affects supply and loss of sources of income and work.
It also provides compensation in cases of displacement and immaterial losses for those living in family economic arrangements. According to the text of the bill, compensation must take into consideration “the diversity of situations, experiences, vocations and preferences, cultures and specificities of groups, communities, families and individuals.”
The companies will also be obliged to finance actions aimed specifically at vulnerable groups, women, elders, children, people with disabilities, Indigenous populations and traditional communities, as well as workers from the companies themselves.
Edited by: Thalita Pires