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Wastepickers against pollution and public policy in Federal District, Brazil

The Federal District Government and World Bank-backed project “Sustainable Brasilia” caused stir among the families of Cidade Estrutural, the second most populated favela of Brasil’s Federal District


Cidade Estrutural is the second most populated favela of Brasil’s Federal District. Waste picking is a major source of income for its inhabitants who live close to the biggest landfill in Latin America. Cidade Estrutural started as an illegal settlement created by waste pickers in the 60s and grew rapidly during the 90s, mostly due to incentives by political opponents to the Federal District Government of the time. However, the landfill is also a big source of contamination: dust and air pollutants; insufficient waste management and residual water treatment; slurry from organic waste decomposition. These factors pose a permanent health risk to Estrutural inhabitants, specially to children which are vulnerable population. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Wastepickers against pollution and public policy in Federal District, Brazil
State or province:Brasilia, Federal District
Location of conflict:Cidade Estrutural
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Pickers earn about 40 reais ($12.40) per day collecting materials from the dump that can be sold to recycling operators

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:45,000
Start of the conflict:1990
Relevant government actors:Federal District Government; Federal District Housing Development Company (CODHAB); Federal District and territories Public Ministry (MPDFT); Urban cleaning service (SLU)
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (ESCAMP ,WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Associação Viver, Casa dos Movimentos Sociais, Ponto de Cultura e Memória, Associações e Prefeituras Comunitárias, Fórum de Monitoramento da Estrutural .Inhabitants of cidade Estrutural
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Other Health impactsSpecific impact on children´s health
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The situation of waste pickers is uncertain; some received an economic compensation for losing their jobs, though the value was deemed too low. As for the displaced families, there is no further information on their struggle. With time, the deactivation of Estrutural’s landfill will reduce the risks they are exposed to. But it will take time.
Sources & Materials

DF - Catadores de material reciclável lutam contra contaminação e por políticas públicas
[click to view]

Reportagem do DFTV sobre as casinhas
[click to view]
[click to view]

Dump closure could spell end to Brazil's 'city of rubbish
[click to view]

GDF constroe casas dentro do lixo na Estrutural
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Fórum de Monitoramento Social da Estrutural webpage
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Francisco Venes (FLACSO Ecuador) and Grettel Navas (ICTA-UAB)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2950
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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