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Brazil announces new measures to stem Amazon assault

Brazil announces new measures to stem Amazon assault
Brazil has announced new measures designed to stem an accelerating assault on the Amazon’s rainforests – on the same day as the nation’s space agency released figures showing that 756km2 of Amazon forest were cleared in August, triple the 230km2 cleared in August 2007.

01 Oct 2008
Heading a list of a dozen new measures, Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc named the top 100 clearing culprits and announced that an agreement had been made with government law and prosecution authorities to tackle a situation where only 10 out of 100 clearing prosecutions proceed to trial, and only one to any punishment.

The top six clearers were agricultural settlements established by Incra (the federal agency for rural land settling and agrarian reform) located in the state of Mato Grosso.

According to WWF-Brazil’s Conservation Director, Cláudio Maretti, the measures announced, if actually implemented, will address several needs including that of more coherence among the various government offices and a break with the practice of establishing settlements without due environmental care.

“The lack of consistency among government actions, particularly those of Incra and the Ministry of the Environment, is finally being tackled,” said Maretti. “In some cases, settlements are established without even complying with legal requirements and we still have cases of settlements created in conflict with protected areas.

“The release of the top 100 responsible deforestation entities is a positive thing, because it accounts for a great part of the area which was cleared in the Amazon and enables the government to concentrate actions and resources on those who are most responsible for destroying the forests.”

Minister Minc put the leap in deforestation down to pressure for land occupation and illegal possession, the expectation of a land ownership regulation, increased agricultural activity in the state of Pará, the difficulties faced by environmental agencies in mounting patrols and the municipal electoral period.

Survey analysis shows annual deforestation to be 17,300km2 in non-election years, compared to 19,729km2 in election years.

One other survey result released by Ibama was the accumulated deforestation during January through August 2008 in the 36 municipalities which compose the Deforestation Arch.

A total of 373.3km2 were deforested within the Incra’s settlings, 172.2 km2 in Indigenous Territories and 1,388.8km2 in private properties.

Deforestation detected within strict use federal protected areas amounted to 7.9km2 while in sustainable use federal protected areas, such as extractive reserves and sustainable use reserves, it reached 88.8km2.

“It is a complete shame that there were almost 100km2 deforested within federal protected areas in those 36 municipalities alone,” Mr Minc said.

Other measures announced included the creation of a federal force to fight environmental crime, for which 3,000 new agents will be hired and 1,500 agents from the official environmental agencies - Ibama and Instituto Chico Mendes – will be trained.

An Amazon Deforestation Control and Prevention Action Plan, to support design of state plans to fight deforestation, will be re-activated and a federal ministerial committee –Cide - will be created.

It will be composed of six ministers with portfolios affecting deforestation, such as rural credit and land property policy and, according to Minc, “will be the deforestation Copom” (Copom is Brazil’s powerful Monetary Policy Committee).

Another measure will see protected area implementation and costs included in highway plans and budgets – a key measure as new and improved roads often open the gates to greater deforestation

WWF Brazil believes that the four pillars of effective action on deforestation are the creation of protected areas, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, effective surveillance and law enforcement and financial support for those protecting the forest.

“Land ownership regulation is the basis to make these measures effective and the Amazon Fund has the promise to provide the financial incentives for the protection of ecological services provided by forests,” Cláudio Maretti said.

“It is imperative that the funds reach the field, meaning local communities, land owners and protected areas but civil society is still confused about the objective guidelines to implement the Fund,” he said.

For additional information:
Isadora Afrodite 55 61 3364.7477 - isadora@wwf.org.br

source: WWF

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