Conservation news

Behind the scenes video unveils water contamination by ‘sustainable’ Amazon palm oil

Palm fruits stored on the road in Tomé-Açu municipality, northern Amazon’s Pará state, on November 12, 2019. Image by Karla Mendes/Mongabay.

  • Brazil’s official policy states that Amazon palm oil is green, but is that true? An 18-month investigation showed the opposite, with impacts including deforestation and water contamination, and it revealed what appears to be an industry-wide pattern of brazen disregard for Amazon conservation and for the rights of Indigenous people and traditional communities in northern Pará state.
  • The Mongabay investigation will be used by federal prosecutors as evidence to hold a palm oil company accountable for water contamination in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Reserve.
  • Federal prosecutors have pursued Brazil’s leading palm oil exporters in the courts for the past seven years, alleging the companies are contaminating water supplies, poisoning the soil, and harming the livelihoods and health of Indigenous and traditional peoples, charges the companies deny.
  • In this behind-the-scenes video, Mongabay’s Contributing Editor in Brazil, Karla Mendes, takes us on her reporting journey as her team tracks how the palm oil industry is changing this Amazonian landscape.

During 18 months, Mongabay investigated allegations challenging the “sustainable” status of the Brazilian palm oil supply chain, revealing impacts including deforestation and water contamination, and what appears to be an industry-wide pattern of brazen disregard for Amazon conservation and for the rights of Indigenous people and traditional communities in northern Pará state.

In this behind-the-scenes video, Mongabay’s Contributing Editor in Brazil, Karla Mendes, takes us on her reporting journey as she and the team track how the palm oil industry is changing this Amazonian landscape.

Karla herself experienced a rapid onset of coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches when she inhaled fumes from these oil palm trees doused with pesticides. “I came back to the car because the smell is very strong. I started coughing, it’s horrible,” she says.

The Mongabay team also witnessed a wide range of wrongdoing, including the dumping of alleged palm oil residue in the Acará River and the lack of a buffer zone around Indigenous reserves, which are all surrounded by oil palm plantations.

The Mongabay investigation will be used by federal prosecutors as evidence to hold a palm oil company accountable for water contamination in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Reserve.

The biggest news portal in Brazil, UOL, picked up the Mongabay story, and Karla was also interviewed by the BBC about her investigation.

Read the full investigative report here:

Déjà vu as palm oil industry brings deforestation, pollution to Amazon

Related listening: hear Mongabay’s reporter Karla Mendes discuss these issues along with researcher Sandra Damiani and federal prosecutor Felício Pontes Júnior on Mongabay’s podcast:

Banner image: Palm fruits stored on the road in Tomé-Açu municipality, northern Amazon’s Pará state, on November 12, 2019. Image by Karla Mendes/Mongabay.

Karla Mendes is a staff contributing editor for Mongabay in Brazil. Find her on Twitter: @karlamendes

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