A Story on Oil, Pollution and Racism

Tommaso Rada

2020 - 2021

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

In 1940, oil deposits were discovered in the Bahia de Todos os Santos; oil extraction wells were installed in the ocean surrounding area, in the Candeia zone and in the Ilha de Maré. In 1950 the Ludulpho Alves-Mataripe refinery were inaugurated in front of the Ilha de Maré. In 1953 the national oil company, Petrobras was founded and in 1967 the Industrial complex of Aratu, consisting today in a commercial port mainly for the exportation of gas and in petrochemical industries, was built. In 2021 the refinery of Mataripe is sold to the Mudabala Capital from United Arab Emirates.

“Environmental Racism” has used to describe environmental injustices in a racial contest. The researcher Miranda’s studies demonstrated high contamination of Cadmium and Lead in the children of Ilha de Maré. The researcher Bispo underline the lack of communication and compromise between the institutions, the company and the local Communities which generate local conflicts. Despite the community of the Ilha de Maré tried to established a dialogue with the Institutions and the Companies to improve the environmental situation, very little has been done to decrease the pollution level or the factors that affect the Community of Ilha de Mare.

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  • Ilha da Maré, Bahia. Shell collectors search for clams in front of an extration oil well. With an increase of the industrialisation, increased also the level of environmental pollution and environmental related incidents, like in 2008 when a Norwegian ship lost in the waters lubricant oil polluting all the nearby areas. The Bahia’s researcher Neuza Miranda carried on a study that demonstrated the high contamination of Cadmium and Lead coming from the local industries in the children of Ilha de Maré.

  • Candeias, 1950. A detail from an archival picture of Brazilian President Getulio Vargas showing a hand stained with oil at the opening of the construction works of the Landulpho Alves Refinery. The refinery is located in front of the Ilha da Maré and has been responsible of land-grabbing against the local communities that used the mangrove areas to retrieve shellfish, also the industrial complex contributed to the pollution of the waters of the bay.

  • Aratu. An Infrared color image of gas deposits of Aratu Port. The Aratu-Candeias Port that is responsible for the 60% of the cargo ship travelling from and to the Bahia State. With an increase of the industrialisation, increased also the level of environmental pollution and environmental related incidents, like in 2008when a Norwegian ship lost in the waters lubricant oil polluting all the nearby areas.

  • Ilha da Maré, Bahia. Diego, the son of the activist Eliete Paraguassu, shows 2 fished crabs, the main product sold by the Quilombolas. The Ilha da Mare is the home of several Quilombola’s communities that live of fishing. The waters where they fish are polluted with petrochemical residues and other chemical components. On the land of the island is possible to spot places where the oil come out from the ground. Most of the activists of the Island are women and they carry on the unity of the community and the fight for their basic rights.

  • Ilha da Maré. A view of the Aratu Port from the Ilha da Maré. The Aratu-Candeias Port that is responsible for the 60% of the cargo ship travelling from and to the Bahia State. With an increase of the industrialisation, increased also the level of environmental pollution and environmental related incidents, like in 2008when a Norwegian ship lost in the waters lubricant oil polluting all the nearby areas.

  • Ilha da Maré, Bahia. A group of fisherwomen during a meeting of the Community. The leaders of the Quilombo of Ilha de Maré are mainly women and are the ones that fish and catch seafood. Because of the high petrochemical pollution their still of life has been deeply affected. The Quilombolas claim they are discriminated by environmental racism.

  • Ilha de Maré. A view of the community of Bananeira, one of the communities belonging to the Quilombo of Ilha de Maré. The Quilombos are Brazilian settlement founded by people of African origin; most of the founders of these communities were escaped slaves. Despite the community of the Ilha de Maré's Quilombo tried to established a dialogue with the Institutions and the Companies to improve the environmental situation, very little has been done to decrease the pollution level or the factors that affect the Community of Ilha de Mare making them suffer of environmental racism.

  • A detail of an archival image showing the Candeia Refinery at the beginning of its activity.

  • Ilha da Maré. Raw oil surfacing from the ground of some fields of Ilha da Maré. Between the 70s and the 80s several oil wells were installed on Ilha da Maré, at the time the first oil extracted were discarded lacking in purity, the company responsible for the wells discarded the oil in pits they dig close to the well and then they covered it with soil. The raw oil, which hasn't been absorbed by the soil, is today surfacing. Despite the wells on Ilha de Maré are not extraction any more oil the areas were never reclaimed.

  • Ilha da Maré. Infrared color image of an oil well located on the Island.

  • Ilha da Maré. A member of the community of Martelo rest in the square of the village. The community of Martelo belongs to the Quilombo of Ilha de Maré. The Quilombos are Brazilian settlement founded by people of African origin; most of the founders of these communities were escaped slaves. Despite the community of the Ilha de Maré's Quilombo tried to established a dialogue with the Institutions and the Companies to improve the environmental situation, very little has been done to decrease the pollution level or the factors that affect the Community of Ilha de Mare making them suffer of environmental racism.

  • Ilha de Maré. A view of the mangrove field surrounding the island. Mangrove are essential for the economy of the local communities that live of shellfish hunting in this natural habitat. The industrialisation of the area caused a pollution of the mangrove forest and a reduction of the mangrove area deforested by the building of new industrial complexes.

  • Ilha da Maré, Bahia. Children from Ilha da Maré play while searching for seafood. The Ilha da Mare is the home of several Quilombola’s communities that live of fishing. The waters where they fish are polluted with petrochemical residues and other chemical components. On the land of the island is possible to spot places where the oil come out from the ground. Most of the activists of the Island are women and they carry on the unity of the community and the fight for their basic rights.

  • Ilha da Maré. Infrared color image of an oil well located on the Island.

  • Ilha da Maré, Bahia. Daily life in the Quilombo of Ilha da Maré. The community lives of fishing mainly provided by fisherwomen. The Quilombo's communities of Ilha da Maré are deeply affect by the pollution caused by petrochemical factories located in the area.

  • Candeias. A detail of a Oil well from an archival image shot at the first half of the XX century during the discovering of oil in the Candeia Area.

  • Ilha de Maré. A portrait of Marizelia Lopez, one of the activist of Ilha de Maré fighting for the Quilombola's rights. he leaders of the Quilombo of Ilha de Maré are mainly women and are the ones that fish and catch seafood. Because of the high petrochemical pollution their still of life has been deeply affected. The Quilombolas claim they are discriminated by environmental racism.

  • Ilha da Maré. A view of the seafront of PAria Grande, one of the communities belonging to the Ilha da Maré's Quilombo. The Quilombos are Brazilian settlement founded by people of African origin; most of the founders of these communities were escaped slaves. Despite the community of the Ilha de Maré's Quilombo tried to established a dialogue with the Institutions and the Companies to improve the environmental situation, very little has been done to decrease the pollution level or the factors that affect the Community of Ilha de Mare making them suffer of environmental racism.


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