COMMUNICATION No. 01/2011 - October 3, 2011
Dear friends of Planet Earth
“Serra do Gandarela” (Gandarela Range), located 30 km from Belo Horizonte, the Minas Gerais State capital, Brazil, in the southern portion of Espinhaço Mountain Range, is a unique geological formation that was recognized in 2005 as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The entire area is of great ecological importance, both historical and environmental, and is considered a high priority area for the conservation of endangered Atlantic Rain Forest and Cerrado biodiversity.
For those reasons, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), the Federal Agency of the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment responsible for the establishment of federal Conservation Units, is proposing the creation of the Serra do Gandarela National Park. This initiative has the support of a significant portion of the informed population, as evidenced by the various petitions and manifestos calling for the lawful protection of Gandarela through the creation of this park. The technical proposal by the ICMBio, dated September 2010, presents several biological, geological, hydrological, geomorphological, speleological, paleontological and historic-cultural attributes that justify the proposal to create the Serra do Gandarela National Park.
The Gandarela region concentrates the most important public water resources that will supply the huge demands of the entire metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte (four million inhabitants) and many other municipalities.
The map below gives a clear notion of the hydro wealth – Special Class and Class 1 waters, the purest found in Nature, according to IGAM (agency of Minas Gerais State in charge of the water resources administration) – of the area proposed by ICMBio for the National Park, and whose outer limits have been drawn according to the biodiversity and geosystem (replenishment, impounding and feeding of numerous watercourses) importance of the Gandarela region:
The Gandarela Range also includes the last remaining significant deposits of ironstone fields (gossan/iron cap) in the mountainous central region of Minas Gerais, a geosystem characterized by unusually high rates of both plant and animal species endemism and vast watershed known to be extremely important in the process of recharging innumerable water springs in the region. This geosystem has suffered practically unregulated degradation from the impacts of iron ore extraction for decades in other areas of the vast southeast region of Belo Horizonte, known as the “Iron Quadrangle”, but which could be also known as the “Aquifer Quadrangle”. As a comparison, Australia, for example, has specific public policies to protect areas of Banded Ironstone Ranges, precisely because they are fundamental to aquifers recharge and host a especially rare flora.
Many of the places in the immediate surroundings of the area proposed by ICMBio for the National Park are located alongside the historical “Estrada Real” (a cultural and historical route dating back to colonial Brazil), which holds great potential for the economic development of the region via tourism-related initiatives. The Gandarela Range's location between the State capital Belo Horizonte and important international tourism centers such as Ouro Preto (former capital of the province and one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Brazil), the Caraça and Serra da Piedade religious sanctuaries, along with its several waterfalls, lakes, caves and many other natural wonders, gives the region an enormous potential for truly sustainable economic development, capable of increasing and strengthening the local population economy for decades. This potential, however, depends greatly on the preservation of the region’s environmental and scenic attributes.
We got information on actions currently being taken by mining companies trying to convince the aforementioned public authorities that open-pit iron ore mining operations planned by those companies to be implemented at Serra do Gandarela – such as Vale’s so-called Apolo Mine – are more important than the preservation of that region for the present and future of local municipalities and population living in its vicinity.
The map below shows the impact that would be caused by the Apolo Mine planned by Vale (which so far holds no license for such) on the Gandarela region and waters, considering its location as against the boundaries proposed for the National Park:
It must be noted that the companies’ intent is to mine ALL areas of the Gandarela marked as “laterite canga” (a shield of ironstone pebble conglomerates, outlined in blue on the map), including other projects in addition to those already announced so far, as underneath the surface lies the iron ore they want to exploit and export. This would completely destroy the environmental balance of the last remaining region still untouched within the region known as “Iron Quadrangle”, thereby seriously compromising its wealth and potential in water resources (which help supply a large portion of the Belo Horizonte Metropolitan Region and other neighbouring municipalities within the Piracicaba River watershed), as well as its biodiversity and huge potential for tourism. The result would be to reproduce at the Gandarela scenarios that are unfortunately all too common in other areas of the State, as seen below:
Corporations that want to substantially alter the ICMBio’s technical proposal, so as to enable major mining undertakings to be carried out in the region, are currently amassing strong political pressure on the environmental authorities responsible for the creation of the proposed National Park and on those responsible to license (or not) the mining projects.
WE CANNOT ACCEPT THIS!
This is one of those moments at which you can play a crucial role in favor of the Serra do Gandarela National Park. It is very important that we join efforts to put pressure on some key governmental entities, such as the Minas Gerais State Government, the Presidency of the Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio), the Ministry of the Environment and the Brazilian President, as well as the mining companies such as Vale SA and others. This action can help us convince them that the preservation of the whole area is crucial AND can add higher value in the future for the quality of life of the entire population. You too can take a stand in favor of the Serra do Gandarela National Park, copying the text below in bold, indicating as subject ‘SERRA DO GANDARELA NATIONAL PARK”, and sending an e-mail to:
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I take knowledge about “Serra do Gandarela” (Sierra Gandarela), located 50 km from Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais State, Brazil, in the southern portion of the Espinhaço Mountain Range, a unique geological formation that was recognized in 2005 as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and that the entire area is of great ecological importance, both historical and environmental, and is considered a high priority area for the conservation of unique Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biodiversity.
I support the Brazilians who want the Serra do Gandarela National Park as proposed by Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio) in September/2010, with due adjustments made after public consultations with local communities. I shall thus secure the protection of the Gandarela waters, of the largest patch of Atlantic Rainforest and of the largest complex of waterfalls in our region, to be preserved as a public asset for the enjoyment of the people and as a tourist site.
I also do not agree that ICMBio’s proposal be altered to suit the interests of Vale or any other mining companies.
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You can also sign the Serra do Gandarela National Park Petition:
This will take less than 5 minutes of your time and shall be very precious to the Gandarela future. Do it now! IT IS URGENT!
To know more, read Why to create the Serra do Gandarela National Park and Gandarela: The Avatar is right here we are sending as annex.
Forward this e-mail to all your friends along with a personal message encouraging them to do the same.
Thank you and best regards,
MOVEMENT FOR PRESERVATION OF SERRA DO GANDARELA