A glass of water, please! – By Jacques Pena and Kleytton Morais

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Written in DEBATES he

Seems to be a simple request to resolve. But it is not! This is stated by a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The document reveals that about 3 billion people around the world have no way to wash their hands, about 2.2 billion do not have access to clean water. According to the report, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation was aggravated and brought to light an urgent problem: the difficulty of universal access to potable water for drinking, cooking, sanitation and personal hygiene. Achieving these rights will only be possible if countries create policies that guarantee access to water and sanitation, translated into Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 6, which must be achieved by 2030. (Source: United Nations Organizations) – UN)

During the PT governments, access to water was given priority treatment, among the actions promoted, the following stand out: the Ten-Year Plan for the São Francisco River Basin, which provided for the transposition, one of the largest works to combat drought in the world, taking water to 12 million people; and the National Program for Universal Access to and Use of Water – Água para Todos, part of the Brasil sem Miséria Plan. The Program’s goal was to promote access to potable water for human consumption, agricultural and food production. Within the foreseen objectives, the reapplication of the Social Technology Cistern of Plates, was assertive in combating the scarcity of water for human consumption in the Brazilian semi-arid region. The Brazilian semiarid is a biome, which with these characteristics, is one of the most populated in the world. It occupies 12% of the national territory, covers nine states in the Northeast region, passing through the north of Minas Gerais and has about 28 million inhabitants. (Source: National Institute of the Semi-Arid – INSA)

The plate cistern is a reservoir built to capture and store rainwater in a simple way, it has a capacity of 16,000 liters, enough to supply a family of five people for up to eight months. Its construction is carried out with the interaction of the community, which transforms it into Social Technology. Bricklayers in the region are trained to build and maintain the cistern. The materials used are purchased from local businesses, boosting the economy. With an immense possibility of social impact, the slab cistern was adopted as a public policy of the Água Para Todos Program.

The Banco do Brasil Foundation (FBB) played a fundamental role in contributing to the solution of the problem of coexistence with the Brazilian semi-arid region and in strengthening family farming. In partnership with the Federal Government and the National Bank for Social Development – ​​BNDES, it enabled the reapplication, as a public policy coordinated by the Foundation, of the Plate Cistern and also the Calçadão and Enxurrada Cisterns, which are Social Technologies for capturing and storing of rainwater destined for the consumption of small animals and the planting of vegetables. The partnership delivered 100,000 units and brought drinking water to 400,000 Brazilian families.

The dehydration of public policies

While Lula, a northeasterner who was a victim of drought, created public policies that became world references and brought water to millions of people, Bolsonaro vehemently committed to destroy them.

It took four years to neglect coexistence with the Brazilian semi-arid region. His mismanagement emptied the budget for the construction of cisterns and reactivated the “dry industry” for electoral purposes. He created the “Water Task Force”, spending BRL 1.2 billion in irregular bids to drill wells without water.

As a desperate way of trying to raise the votes of people from the Northeast, Bolsonaro inaugurated sections of the transposition of the São Francisco River, misappropriating the authorship of the work. On the eve of the second round of elections, in a vexatious attitude, he inaugurated the Ramal do Agreste, a water works without water, in the city of Sertânia (PE), which would bring water to 68 municipalities in the region. However, the operation of the branch depended on another work, the Adutora do Agreste, which is stopped because its own government vetoed the resources to complete it.

After his defeat in the elections, the former captain promotes retaliation against the northeastern people. In an inhuman move, he suspended Operation Car-pipa. The partnership between the Ministry of Regional Development and the Brazilian Army has been providing drinking water for 20 years to 1.6 million people who live in a state of public calamity due to drought or drought in the Brazilian semi-arid region. The justification for such cruelty is the lack of funds, but this conduct is a reflection of his dissatisfaction at having obtained only 23.51% of the votes in the region, against 53.18% for Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

And finally, when the lights go out, the astonishing diversion of almost BRL 1 billion for the innocuous, inopportune and absurd purchase of plastic water tanks, confirms that Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism have their backs on Brazil.

thirst for hope

For the next few years, President Lula and his team will face enormous challenges to recover Brazil and restore dignity to its people. In addition to the delicate phase of climate emergency that the planet is going through, a problem in which Brazil needs to return to act strongly, the government will receive a country that has returned to the hunger map, where more than 33 million people are in a situation of serious food insecurity .

The focus on access to water is inevitable and is among the actions for the coming years, to ensure water and food security for those who need it most. According to the Brazilian Semi-Arid Articulation – ASA, the Bolsonaro government destroyed the Água para Todos program, which built 1.3 million reservoirs. There is currently a repressed demand from 350 thousand families without access to drinking water in the Brazilian semi-arid region and an estimate that 800 thousand families need water for food production.

Water is a fundamental resource for life and has inspired many artists and composers.
The lines “Bring me a glass of water, I’m thirsty. And this thirst can kill me. My throat asks for some water. And my eyes ask for your gaze.”, are part of the song ‘Tenho sede’, written by Dominguinhos and Anastácia, in 1976. Immortalized by the Bahian singer and former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, the song is timeless and translates into his verses a manifesto of a people that was abandoned by the public power, during four long years.

The Lula government reappears, in the face of a chaotic scenario, to quench the Brazilian people’s thirst for hope. A government that will restore cultural respect, based on a consequent social dialogue with social movements, in order to listen to social demands. Seeking to value and enhance the tools for implementing effective public policies based on partnerships, for example, with Banco do Brasil, other public and state-owned banks, with Fundação Banco do Brasil and the excellence of its staff playing the role of articulate and make feasible the commitments with those who need it most.

* Jacques Pena is former president of Fundação Banco do Brasil and former president of BRB Banco de Brasília.
** Kleytton Morais is an employee of Banco do Brasil and president of the Union of Bank Employees in the Federal District.

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