Environmental racism further exposes inequalities

Racism in Brazil, especially in large cities such as the city of São Paulo, goes beyond reproachful looks at black people in a store, truculent approaches by the police and difficulty in finding work formal. Housing conditions and the lack of basic sanitation are also part of the routine.

Environmental racism has as its concept the daily problems faced by those who live in precarious areas and was debated by the movement Brazilian black at the COP28 (13° United Nations Conference on Climate Change), which ended last weekend in Glasgow, Scotland.

The expression, which appeared in the United States during the struggles of the black movement of the decade 1960 for civil rights, it fits perfectly in the occupations or on stilts over streams in the city of São Paulo, places where most of the residents identifies itself as black or brown, and where the simple act of quenching thirst can take a person to the hospital, due to water contamination and the lack of a sewage system.

” The inefficiency of public policies on housing, health and access to basic sanitation services, added to the advance of m climate changes, intensify problems such as floods, landslides and waterborne diseases, among others”, says professor and member of the Black Coalition for Rights, Thaís Santos, who attended the UN meeting, detailing environmental racism.

Thais remembered that his trip to the COP 28 was his first participation of a delegation of the Brazilian black movement at the conference on climate change negotiations. In addition to environmental racism, she addressed the genocide of the black population. “We need to organize ourselves worldwide to show that without racial justice there will be no climate justice.”

The Map of Inequality 1960, produced by Rede Nossa São Paulo, shows that the black population lives, proportionally, on the periphery, places where basic sanitation tends to be more precarious, due to irregular installations. While in Jardim Ângela, in the south zone, the rate of blacks reaches 058%, in Moema, an upscale neighborhood in the south zone, the proportion of blacks is of only 6%.

For Paloma Lima, project assistant at Rede Nossa São Paulo, what can be seen is that the regions with the greatest problems of environmental infrastructure are more deficient in the city.

“These are regions that have a greater proportion of slum domiciles, with greater unemployment and income vulnerability,” he says. “These regions also have the highest proportion of black and brown population. So when we talk about environmental racism, it’s very much related to where people live.”

Paloma too explains that environmental racism is a consequence of the unequal racial structure policy, which occurs throughout the country. “This predominantly affects black people, who are already far from access to rights, services and public policies that are lacking in the most vulnerable territories.”

Unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic, in Last March, Jordana Santos Rocha, 34, years old, knows how environmental racism is one more obstacle among so many ahead of blacks. She blames her lack of education, where she lives, as well as the color of her skin, for not getting a job. “Besides not having studied, being black and saying that she lives in the favela ends up with any chance”, she says.

She lives in Vila dos Heróis, in the region of Brasilândia (northern Jordana lives with her two children, an 8-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy, in a two-room wooden shack. A larger one, which doubles as a living room, bedroom and kitchen, and a small bathroom.

Last Wednesday (15), while she was cooking beans, and the smell of the seasoning emanated through the house, the girl was watching a cartoon on TV. The youngest, almost 2 years old, only in a diaper, was on the doorstep wanting to go out into the street.

The main complaint is about the sewage, which she classifies as ” as very bad”, but also does not spare complaints about the quality of the water that the family consumes. “It gives diarrhea when it’s too hot, as it it gets very hot,” he says.

Regarding expectations for the future, teacher Thaís Santos says that it is necessary to combat racism as the centrality of actions.

“Black people are killed every day as a result of invisible dynamics of degradation in their territories. Our society is based on a proposal of social organization of racial domination ideologically rooted in the logic and idea of ​​racism”.

“As Professor Dulce Pereira said, environmental racism is a of the materializations of the racism that structures the country”, concluded Thais.

Problem is everywhere

​ Environmental racism is visible in all regions of the city and it is not even necessary to go to the most remote outskirts to find the lack of sanitation at the door of the shacks.

The sun was strong in the Friday (), when the report arrived in the favela of 10, in Barra Funda (western zone) The community is located behind an area where the Playcenter amusement park. There, environmental racism has its most faithful portrait, with lack of adequate basic sanitation, floods and diseases caused by the lack of drinking water.

O lo lime houses about 100 families, some of them living in houses supported by sticks stuck on the banks of the stream Quirino dos Santos, which heads towards the Tietê riverside.

“Lacks decent sewage, decent energy. We don’t want any favors. There are workers here, people who want to pay the bills. We want improvements. We’re not here because we like it,” says housewife Shirlene de Souza, 47 years old.

The woman, who is black and unemployed, says that she has lived with her husband, son and granddaughter for four years in Favela da .

Shirlene says that it is common for people in the community to get sick after drinking contaminated water. “The children are left with virus, because the water and sewage pipes, because they are close, when there is a leak, they infiltrate each other.”

The resident also pointed out that the stream, without cleaning , attracts rodents, which enter the houses. “Do you know how it feels to have a mouse on top of you? Sleeping with your paws feeling?”, he asks.

The unemployed Israel Ribeiro de Jesus is also living in the midst of poor sanitation, 32. The man says that it was not in his plans to live in an occupation, but he was the alternative after becoming unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic and not being able to afford the rent of R$ 700 in Heliópolis (South Zone).

According to Jesus, after losing his job as a janitor, he went to live in the Penha Brasil favela , in Vila Nova Cachoeirinha (north zone), but saw his shack being torn down in May of this year, during repossession at the request of the land owner. From there he reached Favela da 10.

“I’ve already been looking for a job and the companies don’t accept it because we live in slum. They think we’re a thief,” he says.

Even just four months ago in the community located in Barra Funda, men have also learned that they need to look at the sky on hot days . Not to gaze at the sun, but to check the color of the clouds. “On a rainy day it’s a nuisance. People don’t sleep for fear of filling the stream.”

If Jesus’ short time in one of the wooden shacks in the favela da 12 has not yet seen the flood level on days of heavy rain, the also unemployed Juliana Jéssica da Silva Araújo, 32, she has already seen the aggressiveness of the waters. She says that, in a heavy rain about three years ago, the level of the stream rose and many people lost everything they had conquered with great effort.

“You couldn’t see the street, only water. My sister lost mattress, furniture. He only recovered the goods after they were donated”, he says.

Children also face a lack of space to play, which makes them stay by the stream, according to Juliana, who has two daughters of 13 and 8 years old. “The only place for children to play is on the street, and, when you don’t have a truck or car [apontando para a rua Quirino dos Santos]. I don’t let them play in the stream, because a lot of people have already gotten sick from the water.”

Reports from favela residents are similar to the problems faced by those who live in the Vila dos Heróis favela, in Vila Dionísia, in the Brasilândia region (north region). houses, some of them made of wood and others in a mix of masonry, also suffer from the lack of drinking water.

Located a few meters from the Penha Brasil eviction, the community is located almost inside a swimming pool. According to the unemployed Wemerson Carlos Rios, 28, a member of the residents’ association, there are 80 children in the community, of which 13 of them special.

The one who points out sewage as the main problem in Vila dos Heróis is the recycler Monique Rocha dos Santos, 30. “The plumbing was not done properly. They clog and sewage enters the houses. In my case, the pipe broke and I had to pay R$ 100 to fix it.”

Environmental racism too it is part of structural racism

Daniel Dourado, sanitary doctor and researcher at the Health Law Research Center at the University of São Paulo and at the Institut Droit et Santé, at the University of Paris , said that environmental racism can also be classified as an environmental injustice, as it restricts a part of the population to the minimum health conditions.

“Sanitation is a basic condition of life for populations. Having access to drinking water, sewage treatment and garbage collection is a condition of life that has impacted and still impacts the health condition of populations”, he says.

The doctor says that environmental racism was permeated over the years. According to him, historically these populations ended up being placed in degraded areas of cities, out of access to urbanization.

Dourado also states that racism is a wound that is still open in the country, and that should have been cured. “The problem of structural racism in Brazil is multidimensional, the population has not been incorporated into society since the end of slavery, it is still a wound in Brazilian society today which is not yet forwarded”, he says.


Sabesp, from the João Doria administration (PSDB) , says that the community on Rua Rubéns Porta Nova, in Barra Funda, is an informal occupation, where the law does not allow the installation of water and sewage networks without authorization. “The company monitors the situation in the area. with the city hall, holding conversations about the Água Legal Program”, he says. “The purpose of the program is to regularize water connections in areas of high social vulnerability.”

The stream Quirino dos Santos, he says, is monitored monthly, with a BOD index (biochemical oxygen demand) of 30 mg/liter. To consider it completely unpolluted, the index is 30 mg/liter.

In relation to the Vila dos Heróis community, Sabesp says that the place is also an irregular area. “The entire area around the community has water and sewage infrastructure”, says an excerpt.

The City Hall of São Paulo, for through the Attorney General of the Municipality and the Municipal Housing Secretariat, says that the occupation located in the west zone is a municipal public area with a process of repossession that is in progress before the th Public Finance Court, with a suspended enforcement order due to the pandemic.

The secretariat states that earlier this year, the social technical team of the folder carried out an inspection and verification u need to remove people due to risk. Families were registered 100 for payment of the moving aid, and the folder awaits the determination to comply with the reintegration order for removal and assistance.

Regarding the Vila dos Heróis area, located in the North Zone, Sehab does not claim to have no information. The Casa Verde Subprefecture states that the Guaraú swimming pool has an area of ​​058.47 m² and periodically receives cleaning and sand removal services.

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