Emergency recovery from the Fundão Dam failure: Preparation for ecosystem restoration

Leonardo Ferreira da Silva

Publication Date:

The failure of the Fundão dam on November 5th, 2015, spilled approximately 40 million cubic meters of iron tailings over watercourses, floodplains, cities, native forests and agricultural lands along 600 kilometres of the Doce River to the Atlantic Ocean. Emergency Rehabilitation efforts have been conducted in the affected areas by the non-governmental organisation Renova Foundation, initially by reestablishing the vegetation and soils of impacted areas. The need for a fast-intervention protocol to address the adaptive management of this first emergency phase led to the combination of rapid-revegetation techniques through a mix of grasses and leguminous plants for erosion control, followed by bioengineering techniques and reestablishment of the river system, aiming to provide conditions for the restoration of ecological functions in the medium and long term. Conceptual projects for each environment were developed considering impacts on the geomorphology of the affected rivers, along with adjustments in the field at the time of execution, allowing a scale gain and significant time reduction in determining the emergency solution. The actions resulted in a prompt stabilisation of the main rivers, tributaries, and flood plains. Recent results from a monitoring program showed at least 90% soil-loss reduction was achieved in each of the erosion control treatments as a reduction in turbidity levels of the rivers and an increase in the microbial activity of soils in comparison to unaffected areas. Today, a program of ecological restoration of the watercourses preservation areas (WPAs) is taking place together with restitution of agricultural lands.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration