Future of water in Brasilia

by Denise Augustinho, University of Brasilia (UnB)


My research initially focused on the perception of water resource managers about the future of water in Federal District (DF), but I realized that there were many missing actors in this complex network. Actors who really hold power are not open to dialogue, neither to this research, as well, actors without representation such as those of nature, armadillos, rivers, etc., also not embraced. The game Politics of Nature (PoN) is a possibility to contemplate these missing actors. In our experience of playing the PoN were these two groups the most represented.

On December 3, 2018 we played the PoN, we did 3 simultaneous tables, 3 different themes: (i) The future of water in the DF, (ii) Climatic resilience in Brasilia and (iii)

Perspectives of the relationship between education, art and technology in DF. It was exciting to see so many amazing people taking their time for this social experience that succeeds in including the missing actors in the analysis of the controversies and seeks a consent among all the actors involved.

At the table on the future of water in the Federal District, it was beautiful to see how the Flying Rivers (wet air masses coming from the Amazon) dialogued with the superficial rivers, and these with the Cerrado who demanded recognition of its ecosystem services rendered … How to Terracap (the local land owner and manager company also speculator) and land grabbers harassed the small farmers… the potential that the bathers have in speaking by the sources since they have the contact by the pleasure with the elemento… New actors were¬†made visible, the relations between them described and were able to construct collectively proposals consented by all.

The proposed controversy over the future of water in the Federal District was, to a large extent, equating the occupation of the territory with the capacity to supply its population with the resources necessary for its existence – notably the most fundamental of them, water – is now an issue and what we are doing today is writing the future of the capital.

The retro-futuristic aesthetic (style of the festival’s inspiration) tells me a lot about these moments of ecological-economic inflection as we are living. There are water crises in the world – which are nothing more than economic ambition moving beyond the limits of what the ecosystem can provide. In Brazil, we see this happening in S√£o Paulo, Brasilia, Campina Grande … But we see extreme cases like Cape Town that no longer comes water in the taps on several days in the week.

And politically, Brazil lives this nameless conservative ebb. In Brasilia, in the same way, we have witnessed the advance of economic forces on the territory with a very great speed in the last years, in the last decade (in which I follow this process). But that was always the velocity of the modernist city.

Over time, Brasília and the surrounding area have consolidated themselves as an important migratory attractor, which has welcomed and had an important contribution in its construction of climate refugees such as the northeastern drought flagellates and it is difficult to speak of vetoing the arrival of more people, this controversy is very significant. Our first water plan, PLANIDRO, with a strong hygienic bias, previewed a sanitary cord around the Paranoá basin that tried to prevent heavier occupation.

Brasília was created in this modernist zeal based on two axes (road and monumental axes) and was intended to be a zero mark where the new capital would be built from nothing. A zero mark that would erase the tradition and the past in the Central Plateau of Brasil, erasing several important actors for our Politics of Nature. Other ancestor paths and toponymies, however, would remain as testimony of other times, such as the royal road previously opened by the indigenous people of Goyazes, Tapuya… or the archaeological sites that were only to be recognized recently.

We also have iconic personalities of the indigenous and quilombola (ex-slaves) contribution in the construction of Brasilia, as the Indian called Juscelino (grandfather of the Santxi√™ paj√©, leadership of the indigenous Sanctuary of the Paj√©s in the resistance against the Northwest Sector, a luxe housing enterprise) who came to work on the Bananal farm and stayed during the construction of Bras√≠lia, and the quilombola Sinfr√īnio Lisboa da Costa (from Quilombo Mesquita recognized as a important personality in 2015), but, ironically the quilombo suffers today with the threat of real estate project that has an ex-president of Brasil as partner.

What future awaits us if we continue to expropriate the whole network of humans and nonhumans constituted in the territory (human populations historically constituted in the territory, trees of the Cerrados with their deep roots, fungi, etc.) to replicate more and more concrete boxes, to continue waterproofing the soil more and more … What future awaits our water bodies?

Parano√° Lake, which receives treated sewage and rainwater from the city of Bras√≠lia, is in the hydrographic basin that is listed as a historical patrimony of humanity but has never ceased to grow. It is still coveted for the implantation of luxury enterprises, with an increasingly medicalized population… the quality of the lake reflects what the population embedded in the basin does.

We see the ambition of the real estate industry, which has the land as an input, carpet the preserved areas to implant its suicidal projects like the Taquari Sector on the area that our eco-historian, Paulo Bertran, called Parano√° little hill, with a hundred springs that contribute to the Torto stream that now supplies the Parano√° (emergency water supply plant). As the Northwest Sector little by little the destroyed the Bananal stream…

We are reducing the National Park of Bras√≠lia where is the Santa Maria Dam, we are converting in urban the rural areas in the Descoberto basin (main source of water of DF), also in the contribution basins of Corumb√° river (which this month may begin to supply the southern portion of the DF) … There are many examples of how we are mistreating the space of our city.

We have ahead of us a dubious future, a catastrophic virtuality that may or may not be up to date. I echo the philosophy of virtuality, Henri Bergson, which points to virtuality as existing: our current actions (today) already delineate a virtual reality that already exists, but which may or may not be updated. But it is already a reality, it already exists, in that it is a trend, as the process is already in the process of becoming.

Therefore it is imperative that we think of the territory, the water bodies that sustain us and the social bodies as beings in time, beings with becoming. Today we estimate that we have water availability, that Corumb√° IV would supply Brasilia with water for the next 100 years (as Roriz’s electoral propaganda called out). But like all beings, the water bodies perish and make it more or less fast according to the life they have.

What we usually call ‚ÄúNature‚ÄĚ, in fact, is not given; it is not a natural resource that is available. The fungal network is doing a great negotiation with the tree roots, which in turn negotiate with the groundwater and the flying rivers at the same time; the fire in the Cerrado does a strong diplomacy with the seeds. Do not deceive ourselves, they are doing a heavy politics.

That’s why we are going to do loose if we get out of this negotiation.

Frederik Lassen

Co-initiator at Politics of Nature
Frederik Lassen

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