Brasilia, March 20 - WWF-Brazil comes publicly to assert its concern regarding the series of oil spills caused by the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, resulting in severe environmental impacts throughout the country and losses of lives of several oil workers. According to the Brazilian press, there is a record of 95 incidents in the last 15 months, including major disasters such as the Guanabara Bay oil spill (1.3 million litres of oil in Janu-ary 2000) and the Araucária oil spill (4 million litres in July 2000). This indicates that Petrobrás has failed on implementing a comprehensive safety programme able to prevent and deal with oil spills and, therefore, to avoid destructive environmental impacts.
Regarding the sinking of the P-36 oil rig at this morning, the largest of the world of its kind, WWF expects that Petrobras will do whatever is necessary to prevent the oil to reach the coastal area of the State of Rio de Janeiro, near where it was located, by removing from the sea all oil and diesel that leaks from the rig, there-fore preventing it to cause any serious environmental distress. The area where the rig is located, 120 km from the coast, is not a priority a area in terms of biodiversity and WWF believe the environmental damage might be reduced if all proper mesures are taken in the next days to contain the spill. The explosions responsible for the sinking ocurred five days ago and, according to experts, it would take further 8 days for the oil to reach the coast, thus giving Petrobras enough time to implement an emergency plan, deploying all personel and equip-ment necessary to contain the spill. However, should the oil reach the coast of Rio de Janeiro, it might affect a coastal protected area (Jurubatiba National Park), mangroves, corals reefs and several marine species, as well as the beaches and population centres with unpredictable short and long term effects. In this case, Petrobrás should be held responsible for all damage that might occur and must invest whatever is necessary to clean it up and restore the ecosystems affected, as well as face the penalties of the environmental legislation.
WWF-Brazil is calling for a in-depth audit on this and former incidents to reveal the real situation of the safety procedures and rapid response schemes adopted by Petrobras in order to restore the company´s credi-bility and stop the series of incidents that are threatening several lives and endangered ecosystems such as the coastal zone, wetlands, and the Atlantic Forest, among others. Such investigation should address also the rea-son that took so long for Petrobras to run na independent assessment of its environmental safety procedures, requested by WWF and other NGOs after the Araucária disaster, last year. This assessment had just started when the last incident occured with the P-36 oil rig. Petrobrás must also clearly demonstrate to the Brazilian population what measures has taken so far to strenghten safety measures in order to avoid future incidents. Finally, Petrobrás should take immediate action to provide all its facilites with the proper environmental li-cencing, adopting all necessary measures to follow the current environmental legislation.
WWF Brasilia, viestintäpäällikkö Ulisses Lacava, puh + 55 61 364 7400, mobile: +55 61 914 5532
(aikaero WWF:n Brasilian toimistoon –5 tuntia), Suomen WWF, meriasiantuntija Anita Mäkinen, 040 527 1425, viestintäpäällikkö Päivi Rosqvist, 0400 425 666