Amazon turning point? Brazil fights Forest Code changes

Posted by Sarah Shoraka — 24 May 2011 at 10:37am - Comments
Burning Amazon rainforest: deforestation caused by fires so that forest can be c
All rights reserved. Credit: © Greenpeace / Rodrigo Baléia
Rainforests in Brazil are being destroyed due to potential changes in protection laws

Less than a year ago the Brazilian government announced the lowest rate of Amazon deforestation on record. But this week, the news isn’t as hopeful: deforestation has actually increased by over 570%.

Over 590 km2 of rainforest has been deforested during the past two months, according to Brazilian satellite monitoring - an increase of more than 570% compared to this same period last year. And approximately 80% of the deforestation occurred in the state of Mato Grosso.

A startling statistic, the story has grabbed the attention of both the UK media and worldwide.

This trend of increasing rainforest destruction occurs at the same time that Brazil is debating changes to its forest protection legislation - known as the Forest Code - including pardoning those who’ve deforested illegally in the past.

This is already driving massive illegal deforestation as farmers are rushing to clear forests, in expectation that these legislative changes will grant them amnesty - or that the rules defining how much forest must be protected will change.

These shocking figures may be just the tip of the iceberg too. The monitoring system only detects deforestation larger than 25 hectares, and, because it’s the rainy season, there are a lot of clouds in the way.  These two factors indicate that what’s been detected may be only a proportion of what is actually happening - in reality the volume of deforestation may be much higher.

Our friends in our Brazil office are fighting hard to persuade their President Dilma to stop the chainsaws by blocking changes to this law and acting decisively against those that are destroying the Amazon. 

Today and tomorrow the Brazilian Congress will vote on the Code. Vested interests mean that we’re likely to lose this vote, despite the fact that ten of the previous environment ministers held a press conference yesterday asking the Congress and President Dilma not to approve the Code.

Whatever happens this week we can still win this fight if President Dima vetos the Code – a strong possibility if we keep up the pressure.

Stay tuned, I'll be keeping you up to speed with the latest developments in Brazil.

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About Sarah Shoraka

I am a forest campaigner working to stop the drivers of destruction in the last intact rainforest in the world. Sometimes I write blogs too.

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