After years of struggle, the community of Piquià de Baixo achieves concrete progress towards resettlement

Press release
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After more than thirteen years of struggle against polluting companies from the steel and mining industry, the people of Piquiá de Baixo sign the construction contract that will allow their resettlement.

Representatives of the Piquiá de Baixo community in the Brazilian State of Maranhão signed the contract launching the construction of a new district where 312 families will be relocated last Monday 17 September. For the last thirteen years, the people of Piquiá along with civil society organizations have been fighting against mining and steel companies responsible for grave environmental damage and for putting the health of the local population in jeopardy. The new district was designed by the people of Piquiá, with technical support from a third party chosen by them, following their decision to resettle due to the irreparable damages caused by the companies. The construction works are being covered by the State and, for a smaller part, by the companies responsible for the damage, and the community.

In 2011, FIDH, Justiça Global (JG) and Justiça nos Trilhos (JnT), published a report denouncing the negative impacts of Vale S.A., a mining giant, and the steel companies in its supply chain on the health and environment of the communities of Piquiá de Baixo and of the California settlement in Açailândia, in the Brazilian State of Maranhão. It outlined how the inhabitants suffered daily from the surrounding pollution and reported numerous health problems - including serious respiratory and sight problems -; it highlighted the moral and judicial harassment faced by human rights defenders denouncing negative human rights impacts linked to Vale’s activities as well as the great difficulty to obtain reparation before courts for the locals. Seven years later, the signing of the construction contract is a relief for the community. However there is still a long road towards full redress. This news should further allow for companies to acknowledge responsibility for the human rights and environmental violations they committed and for the State to recognize its negligence in the case; it should lead to more thorough reparations of the damages suffered by all the local populations. As the construction begins, our organizations hope that State and corporate actors will ensure this stage of the process advances smoothly to allow the prompt relocation of the community.

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