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Slow-Motion Catastrophe in Brazil

On November 5, a mine burst in Brazil, sweeping away the town of Bento Rodrigues. Seventeen people are dead and two remain missing. Fifty million metres of red mud have slithered 800 km down the Rio Doce River, tainting drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents, killing aquatic life, and threatening Atlantic coastal fisheries. The president of Brazil’s environmental agency said, “We have thousands of hectares of protected areas destroyed and the total extinction of all biodiversity along this stretch of the river.” John Knox, a UN special reporter has stated the tailings are toxic — a claim the companies deny.  At the same time, Vale has warned it will take “several years” for the Rio Doce to recover. The Earth Institute predicts 15 to 20 years. Other estimates range from five months to never.

The chief executives of Vale and BHP have offered apologies and insist they will honour their obligations. In a December 21 update, BHP confirmed that a New York-based law firm and Latin American specialist will lead an “external’’ investigation and make the findings public. The moves follow a Brazilian court ruling giving the companies 30 days to deposit 10 % of the $US5.5 billion into a fund for clean-up and compensation. Vale plans to appeal the decision; BHP states it has received no formal notice of the ruling. Samarco, the mine and dam operator, is a joint venture of Brazilian iron ore giant Vale and Anglo-Australian mining group BHP Billiton.

There may have been safety warnings about the dam. According to Brazil’s Deputy Attorney-General, “Vale and BHP were totally careless in preventing this.  They did not show a plan of action in case of disaster. They had no alarm system in place.”


2015 in Review

2015 has been quite the year!


In preparation for the WAF Award Event 2015, scheduled for Milan, WAFA volunteers held a fundraising event at the residence of the Italian Ambassador in Copenhagen. Over 60 guests attended from government, NGOs and interested organizations.

WAF Award Event 2015: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Then plans shifted on a dime, and the Award Event 2015 was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! The international and local teams worked tirelessly with spectacular results on October 22, 2015. Kuala Lumpur marks a transition for WAFA:

We now have an Asia chapter, based in Malaysia!

Because of each finalist’s unique qualities, our expert panel decided to award all three!

  • ENPHO’s entrepreneurial dynamism ensures water quality in rural Nepal
  • SOIL’s affordable technology enables Haitian rural communities to manage their own hygiene,  ensure their water security, and restore their land’s productivity
  • Turenscape’s ecological approach cleans polluted rivers and provides urban green space in China

The Event inaugurated the WAF Youth Award, presented to Wyebank Secondary School in South Africa.

The Awards have expanded to include an Air category. The Water and Food Award is now the Water Air Food Award (WAFA)! This addition could not be timelier, given the grim news from Indonesia and Beijing.


At the invitation of Turenscape’s founder, Dr. Yu Kongjian, WAFA President, Tina Lindgreen, visited China from November 3 to 11. Tina met decision-makers committed to sustainability, who are keen to host the WAFA 2016 Award Event in Beijing, in conjunction with Peking University’s high-profile Beijing Forum in early November 2016.


WAFA has been invited to submit a proposal to Vietwater 2016, an international conference in Hanoi in late November.


Let’s not forget COP21! Tina and WAFA volunteer Noé Levasseur attended the conference. Tina is convinced that many international organizations are willing to fund initiatives like WAFA, provided they see a credible organization on the ground. We’ve been on the ground for a while. Let’s make the cut!

“Abundance” by Ida Glad

“Abundance”, by Danish artist Ida Glad, celebrates the 2015 WAF Award finalists’ role in bringing clean water and nutritious food to the world’s children.

Ida says, “This mixed media painting is created with inks, acrylics, collage and digital editing. It reminds us of our good fortune in receiving Mother Earth’s most basic gifts: clean water and an amazing variety of delicious food. If we respect her bounty, she can continue to provide for us.

Abundance and humanity are the key concepts that inspire the painting. I painted children, for most of them are in touch with their humanity and have a unique way of admiring the natural magic all around us”.

You can buy the poster of this beautiful painting in two sizes: 30 x 40 cm. (US$16) or 45x 60 cm. (US$18), plus shipping, at our Online Store. All proceeds go to supporting WAFA’s work.

About Ida Glad:

“I am a visual artist and new entrepreneur, living with my daughter in the Danish countryside. I am very honoured to create this work for the WAF Award. It is a unique opportunity to support the amazing work of the WAF Award finalists. I also see it as an avenue to combine some of my greatest passions: art, creativity, natural balance, and sustainability, as well as the challenges of providing clean water and healthy clean food for everyone.”

For more about Ida, please click here.