In 2002 the Federal Gogernment of Brasil created the Incentive Program of Alternative Sources for Electric Energy, as a crucial part of the so-called (and failed) Accelerated Growth Project (PAC). Since then, the State of Ceará has received great attention as a space to foster the development of alternative sources of energy, and particularly of wind power. By the year 2010, Ceará was positioned as the state with the highest number of wind farms in the country, encompassing 17 projects with an installed capacity of 500 MW.
The Baleia Wind Power Complex is intended to continue this growing path. After an auction held in 2013 the project was awarded to Furnas and FIP Caixa Milan, two companies that also won permissions for the construction of seven additional wind farms in Rio Grande do Norte. The Baleia Complex is to be installed in the Itapipoca municipality (north region of Ceara) and is expected to comprise six wind farms through the coastal area of Baleia and Maceió beaches.
There are at least 110 communities settled along the 573 km of Ceara’s coastline: fisherfolk, indigenous people, quilombolas and farmers and peasants characterized by their sustainable relationship with the ecosystem and biodiversity of the region. Traditional cultures have a strong interaction with land, water, fauna and flora, influencing the life and culture of these groups.
Communities inhabiting the coastal area where the Complex is to be deployed depend on artisanal fishing and family farming, which would be directly affected by the construction of windmills. Some of these communities are Timbaúba, Córrego da Estrada and Assentamento Maceió (the first agrarian reform settlement in coastal area of Ceará which is now linked to the Movement of Landless Rural Workers MST). Since the announcement of the Complex construction, local communities started to mobilize with the support of different social movements, networks and non-profit organizations (see actors involved). They wanted to prevent the destruction of the local socio-biodiversity as has happened with other wind farms in Ceará.
According to a study published by Antonio de Andrade (Department of Geography of the Federal University of Ceará), wind energy production in the state is causing profound negative impacts on the environment. For the installation of wind turbines several access roads are built over the mobile dunes, affecting lacustrine systems and disrupting the environmental dynamics. This implies a complete morphological disruption because the dunes are losing their natural formation, their mobility, and consequently, they are loosing their function to mitigate erosion. Simultaneously, wind turbines are being deployed in traditional communities usufruct areas and within mangroves. The study also denounces other impacts such as lack of employment and sexual harassment to women by those workers who install the windmills. Air pollution is also registered.
In order to discuss these impacts, two different seminars organized by organizations and movements were celebrated between 2012 and 2014 (“Seminários Energia Eólica, Injustiça e Conflitos Ambientais nos Territórios Tradicionais e Camponeses”). As a result, a statement letter was published to denounce the responsibility of federal and municipal governments in contributing on the obscure and undemocratic implementation of wind farms. The letter also stated that the official discourse about the benefit of wind farms (such as job creation and “development”) is a fallacy for local communities that are repressed and intimidated. More than 30 associations (including fisherwoman, fisherman and farmers organizations) signed this letter.
A public hearing on the Baleia Wind Power Complex was held on 26 September 2014 in Itapipoca. According to the blog Combate Racismo Ambiental (11/11/2014), the hearing was marked by a clear position from the company to the communities who attend the event, denying their right to participate and neglecting relevant information of the project. Here communities claimed that the project would negatively affect their productive activities and way of life. They also sustained that the project would demand an excessive amount of water, undermining local consumption and affecting the replenishment of aquifers. Additionally, they claimed the consortium was already deforesting and digging wells in the area although the licensing was still in process. After local representatives gave their declaration (including civil society claims), the consortium participants didn’t sign the document. Two months later, the environmental study made by Ambientare –Solutions was approved giving license to start the construction of the complex. Although the government gave all its support for the consortium, local communities said they will keep fighting: they are not against technology for wind energy production, but against the ways in which these are being implemented - disrespecting and violating the territorial, political and environmental rights of traditional communities.
(Based on FIOCRUZ Mapa de Conflitos envolvendo Injustiça Ambiental e Saúde no Brasil).