março 31, 2019

The power of Fortaleza Environmental Movements

Fortaleza is a seaside city located in Northeastern Brazil with more than 2,500,000 inhabitants. Its urbanization process was very fast and did not prioritize the public spaces areas. The environmental movements of Fortaleza arose in the seventies and have historically supported environmental vulnerable areas, attempting to ensure the social function of properties. Thus, the environmental activists stand against misappropriation by the land market.

The Grande Bom Jardim region is located in the southwest periphery of Fortaleza and is marked by the political action of several social movements. According to SOUZA (2001), social movements are groups that have articulated actions in broad geographical scales chiefly with long term concerns. Their demands make reference to social justice questions and challenge the status quo aspects.

The first social organization that emerged in this area were the Ecclesial Base Communities, linked to the Catholic Church. Currently, the most important social organizations are the Center of Life Defense Hebert de Sousa (CDVHS), the Center of Citizenship and Human Life Appreciation (CCVH) and the Network of Integrated and Sustainable Local Development (Rede DLIS). The last one is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that articulates the many different organizations and social movements from Grande Bom Jardim. This history of social organization is an important aspect for accomplishing many victories, promoting social inclusion and improving the community development.

The local community organization method is based on a research about their shared reality from a participatory perspective and a long process of educating the residents. Besides, the community leaders make efforts to build bridges with University student groups and pressure the state to insert the popular demands in institutional agendas.
Through community organization, the residents of Grande Bom Jardim reached the recognition of Lagoa da Viúva as a protected environmental area by the municipality and, in this way, interrupted the privatization of this space. One efective way of pressuring state agencies to fullfill socio-environmental functions of public land in Bom Jardim is through the elaborating public reports commissioned by State Public Ministry, such as this one.

Lagoa da Viúva is an important green area for the local residents who live immediate near its surrounding and also for people who are from other peripheral places and do not have other recreation options. Lagoa da Viúva includes almost 40 hectares of open green areas and two waterfronts which have been threatened by the intense construction of buildings in the last 10 years. Although this area is inside a federal zone with strict rules for construction, the Lagoa da Viúva's surroundings have several inappropriate uses on its margins, including the deposit of  piles of building materials, illegal reservoirs and fenced areas without authorization.

The social organization of Grande Bom Jardim confronted hegemonic power, created new communication channels with state agencies and influenced the institutional planning processes through straight and collective action. In other words, it emerges from a broader and more inclusive urban planning approach. This is only one example of the environmental movements in Fortaleza, but the city has a lot of other movements which similar or different strategies and internal organization.