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Brazilian Amazon City on the Brink of Collapse due to Deforestation and Lack of Planning

Buriticupu, a small city in the Brazilian state of Maranhao, is facing a grave situation, as it’s being swallowed by the earth. According to experts, the phenomenon is caused by a lack of urban planning and aggressive deforestation.

The city is suffering from the advance of “voçorocas”, meaning “torn land” in the Tupi-Guarani indigenous language. These erosions start as small cracks and grow until they turn into large craters that advance swallowing pieces of the city. The city has 26 “voçorocas,” and the deepest one is about 70 meters deep.

The mayor’s office has declared a state of “public calamity” to get state and federal support to start erosion containment works. The earth already swallowed around 50 houses, and more than 300 are at risk of collapsing, according to the mayor’s office.

The city’s high deforestation has been due to intense logging in recent decades, which took away the sandy soil’s ability to absorb moisture, worsening the erosion process. Additionally, many “voçorocas” are recipients of sewage or drainage outlets, contributing to the advance of erosion.

“Containment engineering works are necessary and reforestation of the edges of the voçorocas” to limit erosion, says Augusto Carvalho Campos, a geographer at the Federal University of Maranhao, with a study dedicated to voçorocas. If the causes are not stopped, in 30 or 40 years, the city could disappear, some experts estimate.

The situation has become so severe that the residents of Buriticupu live in fear of dying due to the collapse. Rainy nights have become terrifying, as some houses may collapse at any moment. The local authorities are facing a request for “immediate help” from the residents. The administrations were not concerned about the problem, claims Isaias Neres, President of the Association of Neighbors of Areas Affected by Voçorocas.

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Joao Carlos Teixeira, the mayor of Buritucupu, has promised to take action to reverse the situation. His plan includes deep drainage works and soil recomposition to make the area safe. However, residents are still living in fear as they wait for the authorities to act.

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