A transitional governance system in the wake of the disaster


In March 2016, the failure of the Fundão Dam killed 19 people, destroyed villages, and spread mud along 670 km of the Rio Doce basin in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo.  

A transitional governance system was put in place to mitigate the effects of the disaster. The first step was signing the TTAC (Terms of Transaction and Conduct Adjustment), which led to the creation of the Inter-Federative Committee (Comitê Interfederativo, CIF) and the Renova Foundation, tasked with implementing and monitoring the 42 programs to recover nature and the livelihoods of the affected communities.  

Such a model, however, could have more effectively involved the affected populations and other stakeholders. Additionally, the overlap of old and new restoration programs and gaps in ensuring actions are integrated, and essential information is made available - for example, on water quality and health impacts - have curtailed the effectiveness of these actions. 


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Responsive governance for the Rio Doce Basin: The Panel's recommendations 

Rio Doce Panel meets at Instituto Terra with young participants of the Project "The future of the Rio Doce is us", led by Instituto Elos (2019).

IUCN/Rio Doce Panel

The Rio Doce Panel sees the restoration work underway as an opportunity to establish more responsive and participatory governance for the Rio Doce Basin, one that looks to the future and ensures the continuity of efforts even after the current programs have ended. 


the Three Pillars of Good Governance


Considering these principles, the Panel recommends the participatory construction of a shared vision for the sustainable future of the Basin.  

Government and management institutions must also be strengthened to continue the work performed by the Renova Foundation, thus ensuring the continuity of restoration efforts. 

Given the water governance structure in Brazil, the Panel also recommends strengthening and increasing the participation of the Rio Doce Watershed Committee (CBH-Doce) in restoration actions. The CBH-Doce brings together representatives from the government, the private sector and society and is the institution in charge of preparing and approving the Integrated Water Resources Plan for the Basin, currently under review.  

Data collection and systematization must also be expanded, and the data must be made publicly available to the communities, which, once empowered, can increase their participation in decision-making processes. 

Learn more about all the recommended actions to strengthen the long-term governance of the Rio Doce Basin in Thematic Report 4: From restoration to responsive governance.

Rio Doce Panel - Long-term Governance


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Successful experiences 

Linhares, MG, October 05, 2018. RENOVA Foundation. Expedition Caminho da Reparação.

In the image, installation of a bridge over the channel that connects the Juparanã lagoon to Rio Pequeno and Rio Doce.

Image: NITRO

There have been several successful examples of responsive governance in Brazil and abroad. Though the models may vary, they all have certain features in common, such as effective communication, commitment, understanding and clarity about the desired outcomes. 

Some of the cases include: 


Social participation in the watersheds of the Piracicaba, Capivari and Jundiaí Rivers (Brazil)


In the 1960s, the Piracicaba River was experiencing high fish mortality due to industrialization and population growth. To try to turn the situation around, social movements created the PCJ Consortium in 1989 to bring together the public and private sectors and civil society and design policies to improve water quality. The initiative was so successful that the consortium continued to serve as the primary agency for the sector until the region's own Watershed Committee was formed in 1997.

Rio Piracicaba : © HVL / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

Communication and transparency in Chesapeake Bay (United States)


Chesapeake Bay : © Ole Bendik Kvisberg / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

The Chesapeake Bay Program uses a wide range of monitoring, information sharing and decision-making tools to monitor and oversee the region. It also holds meetings and public hearings to communicate with civil society. The program also issues bulletins based on indicators of ecosystem health in the Bay's sub-regions, all widely disclosed to the public.

Participation of beneficiaries in a post-disaster housing project (Colombia) 

In 1999, a major earthquake hit several coffee plantation departments' areas in Colombia. Soon after the disaster, the coffee growers' organization set out to collect data on the needs of producers and self-manage the funds made available by the government and NGOs. This approach allowed the freedom to explore different solutions, directly participate in the work and acquire new skills.

Cafetales, Triángulo del Café, Colombia: © Maria del Pilar Ruiz/Triángulo del Café Travel/CC-BY-2.0

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Involvement of the courts and other issues 

Bento Rodrigues Resettlement

Renova Foundation

The current governance structure of the Rio Doce Basin needs help achieving greater efficiency in restoration actions.  

The fact that some programs have been taken to court, coupled with the challenges of reaching a consensus on reparations and governance deadlocks, have delayed the establishment of Independent Technical Advisors (Assessorias Técnicas Independentes, ITA). The Technical Advisors are predicted in the Terms of Conduct Adjustment - Governance (Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta-Governança, TAC-GOV) signed in 2018 to ensure greater participation by the affected population. 

In a recent decision, the Federal Judge of the 3rd Federal Court of Colatina (ES) ratified the Terms of Commitment signed by the Independent Technical Advisors (also called Technical Advisors) for services in 12 affected territories. In late 2022, the Renova Foundation was notified to deposit the amount referring to the first six months of work. 

However, as the Foundation is not responsible for the region's long-term development, the state governments and relevant agencies must agree vis-à-vis the transition to the post-Renova era, set priorities, secure funding, and get the communities involved. As of this writing, no decision has been made on the matter. 


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Vision for the Future 

The situation of fishermen in the region who have almost stopped their activities since the collapse of the Fundão dam.

Image: Gustavo Baxter/NITRO/Visual Stories

Some of the Panel's recommendations are consistent with actions already underway by Renova, such as communicating the findings of the aquatic biodiversity and fish toxicity assessments to the affected communities. This material has been made available to the affected communities, and all other stakeholders at Portal do Monitoramento (Monitoring Website).  

Other recommendations, such as adopting the source-to-sea and integrated landscape approaches in the Rio Doce restoration efforts, were only partially accepted. However, the measures required to implement such approaches are still under discussion. 

Some recommendations were entirely rejected, such as developing a climate action plan for the Basin. In the Panel's view, this and other issues will require attention in the near future. 

The Rio Doce Panel believes that building responsive governance is critical to ensuring not only the mitigation of the effects of the disaster but also a sustainable future for the river and its populations.  

This future must be planned for in the present by drawing on science, and joint action and good practices from companies and governments to first ensure that disasters as Fundão the Dam failure, never happen again. Second, guarantee great preparedness for societies to respond effectively.


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Learn more about the Rio Doce Panel 

Rio Doce Panel members.

IUCN/Rio Doce Panel

How about knowing more details about the work done by the Panel and IUCN?

On the site of the Rio Doce Panel, you can find information about the work and access all the Thematic Reports and Issue Papers.

On the Linkedin page, you receive updates about the Panel and news related to the subject.

IUCN's international website is where you will get all the information about the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and its projects around the world.

And, if you want to get in touch, just write to brasilia@iucn.org.