Brazil Offers Coordinated Plan to Stem Deforestation
BRASILIA, Brazil, March 18, 2004 (ENS) - Brazil is going to use satellite observation to closely track deforestation in the Amazon, one of the measures contained in a long awaited action plan to preserve the largest stretch of rainforest in the world.
President Luiz Lula da Silva launched the government's latest plan to limit logging and land clearing Monday in the face of figures from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) showing that the rate of deforestation is not slowing down, despite several previous plans of action.
With an annual budget of $136 million, the plan will involve 12 federal agencies instead of relying solely on the environmental agencies as the government has done to date with limited success.
The new effort is the first to employ defined responsibilities and targeted timetables for action, said Jose Dirceu, who heads Brazil's Civil House of the Presidency of the Republic.
With this in mind, President Silva said the government will introduce a law that makes it a crime to occupy and deforest public lands.
Government investigation of environmental crimes will be intensified and conducted in an integrated way, said Environment Minister Marina Silva.
There are two types of people in Amazonia today, Silva said, the ones who operate within the law in search of sustainable development, and the ones who act illegally. Then, she said, "There is a large number of people who oscillate between these opposites."
Silva said the government is trying to make legal activities politically and socially more enticing than illegal timber extraction, illegal occupation or claims to public lands, the opening of roads and the creation of settlements.
INPE data shows that 25,476 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest was lost in the 2001-2002 period, about 70 percent of it in the states of Mato Grosso, Para and Rondonia - the so-called Arc of Deforestation.
The government is proposing to work in partnership with the state governments of Mato Grosso, Para and Rondonia and Acre and civil society to create a system of "ecological-economic zoning" in the region of the interstate highway BR 163, also called the Cuiaba-Santarem Highway, that will give a sustainable basis to theisdevelopment.
The highway is considered fundamental to the reduction of costs in soybean export, but it cuts through the rainforest, and has opened up surrounding areas to development.
The Brazilian President signed a decree that establishing an Executive Commission to implement and monitor the new plan for the control of Amazonian deforestation. He also established an Inter-ministerial Working Group to coordinate the 12 ministries and government agencies that will attempt to make it a reality.
But environmentalists said the plan was nothing new, just a consolidation of other plans already in existence scattered throughout the government.
Farmers and ranchers too said they had waited a long time for a disappointing plan. Assuero Veronez of the National Agriculture Confederationís Environmental Commission told Radio Brasil that increasing productivity on lands already cleared would reduce the pressure on forested lands. While the government's plan does address this issue, it offers too little, he said.
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