Wind Farms in the Sustainable Development Reserve of Ponta do Tubarão, Brazil

Artisanal fishermen and traditional communities who managed to obtain a Sustainable Development Reserve are now affected by the construction of wind farms destroying dunes and lagoons.

The Sustainable Development Reserve of Ponta do Tubarao  (SDR-PT) was created in 2003 after one decade of activists and local communities struggling against different attempts to develop projects in the area (including a Tourist Resort and shrimp hatchery activities along the mangroves). The SDR-PT is located in the northern coast of Rio Grande do Norte, in the Guamaré and Macau Municipalities. It covers a total area of 12,940 ha and is considered as a high-importance biological region in Brazil. Inside the SDR-PT, traditional populations inhabit with livelihoods and culture strongly attached to the territory. These communities assure their subsistence throughout artisanal fishing and collecting shellfishes, communitarian tourism, as well as small-scale agriculture and animal farming. In Brazil, Sustainable Development Reserves (Reservas de Desenvolvimento Sustentável RDS) were created as a socio-environmental category that incorporates the objectives of conservation, actions for social inclusion, valuing local knowledge and practices of environmental management (Mattos et al, 2011). However, in practice, such Reserves do not always follow their initial objectives, as it has happening at the SDR-PT.  Since 2010 two wind power projects started to operate inside the SDR-PT: Miassaba II and Alegria II. The state government broadly supports the installation of enterprises. Meanwhile the documents governing the forms of use and occupation of land and management of the reserve, ten years after its creation, are not developed yet. In this context, local inghabitants of the Reserve of Ponta do Tubarao have claimed that the construction of roads for windmill installations has created water scarcity: ponds are now dry. Another impact is the construction of a wall and line towers disrupting the hydrological connection between the rivers (including Tubaro river) and the sea. This has also affected the access for fishermen and the alteration of water sands, affecting fishing activities. Roads have been built removing sand dunes and this prevents the free transit of fish and canoes. Local inhabitants have also argued that noise and vibrations coming from windmills have affected some animals and birds which are not anymore in this area. Moreover, since 2009 the Administrative Council of the Reserve indicated that part of the Miassaba project was being built inside nesting sea turtle areas. Some sources as EcoFinanças,  indicate that the Miassaba II project was approved by the Manager of the Reserve Board also in 2009, and which, according to entrepreneurs Bioenergy, "all the development work of the wind farm was discussed with the community, three public hearings held in the cities of Guamaré, Macau, and the reserve's headquarters in Diogo Lopes. " However, the statements of fishermen who live in the reserve contradict these claims while they argue that they never received significant compensation for the damage caused by the mills around the reserve. (See Marcelo Firpo Porto in sources section). Meanwhile, the Technical Director of the Sustainable Development and Environment Institute of the Federal Government (IDEMA), Jamir Fernandes, argued the installation of  windfarms inside SDR-PT is in accordance with the rules governing the conservation unit. “The management plan of RDS allows the exploitation of this type of activity because it is considered clean. At the time they began the discussions for the installation of the park, the Management Board was in favor of the Project” (Tribuna Do Norte, 2012). In contrast, Luis Ribeiro (Managment Council of Environment of Diogo Lopes), the Management Board has imposed 10 conditions to be met when installing the wind mill parks, but only two of them were met. He did not specify which one. “As a compensatory measure, the Miassaba Park II offered us USD $ 275,000 to be used in conservation programs and environmental protection. The ecological disaster caused has no compensatory measure to pay”. (Tribuna Do Norte, 2012). 
Basic Data
NameWind Farms in the Sustainable Development Reserve of Ponta do Tubarão, Brazil
ProvinceRio Grande do Norte
SiteMacau and Guamaré municipalities
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Windmills
Aquaculture and fisheries
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)1,900.00 ha
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population~ 4000
Start Date01/01/2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesNew Energy Options Geração de Energia from Brazil - Developer
Bioenergy from Brazil - Developer
Relevant government actorsInstituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável e Meio Ambiente do Rio Grande do Norte

Administrative Council of the Sustainable Development Reserve of Ponta do Tubarao
International and Financial InstitutionsBanco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) from Brazil
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLocal fishermen (no formal organization, it seems)

University scientists
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Refusal of compensation
Interviews of affected local people by national/regional media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherDestruction of dunes
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Government arguments supporting a "clean" investment
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Both windfarms still operate in this area. Although there is high discontent among local communities, there is still no visible organization against such projects.
Sources and Materials

Patrícia Pereira Mattos, Itamar de Morais Nobre, Magdi Ahmed Ibrahim Aloufa, RESERVA DE DESENVOLVIMENTO SUSTENTÁVEL: AVANÇO NA CONCEPÇÃO DE ÁREAS, Soc. & Nat. 2011
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Mapa de Conflictos Envolvendo Injustiça Ambiental e Saúde no Brasil.
Case: Pescadores artesanais e agricultores familiares têm seu modo de vida comprometido por usinas eólicas
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Energia limpa e fundamentos sujos.
Claudio Guerra. Fala Rio Grande Blog. Published 10/07/2011, Consulted 03/01/2016
[click to view]

Moradores regaem a usinas eólicas.
Ricardo Araújo. Tribuna do Norte. Published: 08/01/2012, Consulted 03/01/2016
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"Energia limpia" é alvo de ambientalistas. (Excellent information).
Wilston Tosta. Estadão. Published 06/02/2013, Consulted 03/01/2016
[click to view]

Other Documents

Fisherman and windmills (Wilton Junior) Source
[click to view]

Traditional communities and windmill installations (Wilton Junior) Source:,energia-limpa-e-alvo-de-ambientalistas-imp-,1037986
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Windmills along the coastline (Wilton Junior),energia-limpa-e-alvo-de-ambientalistas-imp-,1037986
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSofia Avila-Calero
Last update29/03/2017