TOXIC TOUR: The Santa Cruz Steel Plant built by ThyssenKrupp is much more than a government handout of public funds to a private enterprise.
During a Toxic tour offered by the “Mais Demodracia Institute”, in the town of Sao Fernando in Santa Cruz, one was able to see first-hand the reach and the ability by a transnational corporation to adversely affect the livelihood of thousands of people and be awarded for it.
The first stop of the tour was at the main walking entrance to the Steel Producing plant guarded with four armed security guards. One would think that the complex starts there and that the property that was obtained by ThyssenKrupp includes that access road at the end of the town, but the tour guide explained that the access to vehicles was eliminated but that even though, fenced and guarded, that was a right of way to the people who inhabit the area.
“Not very inviting right?” asks the tour guide who has experience hostility in previous visits to the site where the guards have actually become aggressive towards residents and visitors. Beyond the fence you see this very industrial complex that is purported in the company’s web site as a vital machine that has helped the country even out the trade deficit by exporting around 5 million tons of steel per year. It is a development funded mostly by the National development bank of Brazil. It uses public money to fund mega projects such as this one that only benefit large capital corporation without any benefits to the people affected.
Our delegation met with the local residents who explained to us the issues that have arisen in the area since the company moved in. They mentioned the flooding that was caused by the company’s building of an access canal for ships bringing raw materials and ship out steel plates. Because the main two economic activities of the area were primarily agriculture and fishing, most of the residents lost their livelihood as pollution and diversion of the river made it impossible for them to continue. They were also saying that the emissions from the plant have caused the crops that are produced there to be contaminated and therefore not suitable for consumption. There were some articles of newspapers saying that the company increased carbon emissions in the Rio Zone by 76%. I spoke with one of the elders there, a very sweet and caring man who explained to me all the changes he has seen in the area, including the destruction of habitat, of livelihoods and the deterioration of the health of local people. ThyssenKrupp and the Brazilian Government portray the project as a green project, but so far, there is no plan in action to mitigate the impacts cause to the regions ecosystems and watersheds by the plant.