Known for its rich cultural heritage and the low temperature that prevails during the winter, the historic city of Ouro Preto (MG), 100 km from the capital Belo Horizonte, is “on fire”. The reason: the privatization of basic sanitation.
On December 3, 2019, when the emedebist Júlio Pimenta was mayor, complementary law 188 of November 28 was published in the city’s Official Gazette, which extinguished the Ouro Preto Municipal Water and Sewage Service (SEMAE-OP) , delivering it, through a concession, to Ouro Preto Serviços de Saneamento (Saneuro).
It is a consortium between GS Inima Brasil, a subsidiary of GS Inima Environment, controlled by the South Korean group GS E&C, and the mining companies MIP and EPC. The term of the contract is 35 years.
The changes implemented after the concession of water and sewage services have caused concern and anger in the population.
Water meters were implemented on the sidewalks of homes and simulations of new water bills have frightened residents. Families that previously paid a Basic Operating Fee (TBO) of R$22, will now have to pay for bills above R$250, on average. Since the 24th of July, protesters have been camped in Tiradentes square, in the center of Ouro Preto.
With almost 75 thousand inhabitants, only 64% rely on the municipality’s sewage collection and the rest use septic tanks. Furthermore, 12% of the population does not have access to safe drinking water.
Water must not be a commodity
Acts, walks, leaflets, petitions and protests have taken place in the city. Since July 24, a group of protesters from Ouro Preto, members of the Chico Rei Occupation and organized in the MTST (Movement of Homeless Workers) have been camped in Praça Tiradentes, the main tourist spot in historic Ouro Preto, to denounce the situation.
Councilor Wanderley Kuruzu (PT) remains in the camp and explains the situation: “the basic sanitation of Ouro Preto was privatized at the end of 2019. tariffs for the homes of the families, who are suffering real psychological torture in times of covid-19”, he explains.
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The current mayor Ângelo Oswaldo (PV), elected in 2020, had as one of his main agendas and campaign banners to break the contract with Saneouro and fight the increase in water tariffs.
“At a time of pandemic, people are receiving absurd amounts, approximately twice as much as in neighboring cities. We will suspend the camp for 30 days, and if things do not go according to the wishes of the people, we will return. Water is not a commodity and Ouro Preto will not accept this privatization”, points out Kuruzu.
The “Water Patrol” group collects signatures from residents and the so-called “Popular Sanitary Committee” raises the population’s awareness not to allow the installation of water meters, as a way to make the consortium give up staying in the city, since According to the contract signed with the city hall, hydrometering can only start when the consumption meter is installed in at least 90% of homes, businesses and other establishments.
CPI and new act
Meanwhile, a Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI) is in progress at the City Council and is seeking to investigate possible irregularities in the bidding process and in the contract signed between Saneouro and the city hall.
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Last Saturday (21st), several social movements in the city took a walk through “Fora Saneouro”. Protesters gathered at 10 am in Praça da Estação and walked to Praça Tiradentes with posters, banners and slogans against the privatization of water.
Next Saturday (28) a new event is scheduled at 15:00 at Praça da Estação.
Source: BoF Minas Gerais
Edition: Elis Almeida