Rio Carnival pays tribute to Brazil’s rivers
However, this year’s carnival will also be remembered for the tribute that was paid to freshwater – and to the victims of Brazil's worst environmental disaster.
The Portela samba school won the award for best parade after a two hour spectacular on a theme that evoked harsh memories of the environmental catastrophe that destroyed various villages in the State of Minas Gerais as well as the rio Doce – literally the ‘sweet river’.
The costumes of Portela’s 3,400 participants created the sensation of running water as they danced down the half-mile long Sambadrome parade ground. The parade depicted ribeirinhos (traditional peoples who live near rivers), fishermen and other people whose livelihoods are dependent on water, as well as various freshwater species.
The collapse of the dam at the Samarco mine in Mariana – a joint venture between the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, and the world’s largest iron ore mining company, Vale SA – killed 12 people, left another 11 missing and devastated the livelihoods of countless communities.
The accident also completely destroyed the rio Doce.
While the disaster received substantial media coverage at the time, this tribute to it during the carnival is critically important as it will help to focus attention on the need to address environmental issues, particularly the protection and management of the country’s freshwater resources.
“In an artistic and light-hearted manner, this type of publicity brings the water resources agenda home to a huge number of people, highlighting not only its symbolic and cultural dimensions, but also its social and environmental aspects,” said Ricardo Novaes, Freshwater specialist at WWF-Brazil.