Brazil moved a step closer to passing a controversial law that would allow landowners who illegally deforested land in the Amazon to get legal title to these holdings. Environmentalists say HB 458 — which now only needs the signature of President Lula, an avid supporter — will legitimize years of illegal colonization and may promote new deforestation.
“This could be a big step backward for Amazonian conservation,” said William F. Laurance, a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who has spent nearly three decades studying in the Brazilian Amazon. “The Amazonian environment is the clear loser here.”
The proposed law will enable a claimant gain title for properties up to 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) provided the land was occupied before December 2004. Critics note the law favors industrial developers over small holders, allowing those controlling 400-1500 ha to sell their holdings after three years. Farmers or ranchers holding under 400 ha have to wait 10 years to sell.
Former Environment Minister Marina Silva said the Senate’s passage of HB 458 was the third worst day of her life, following the death of year father and the assassination of her mentor Chico Mendes, a leader of a rubber tapper union based in the Brazilian state of Acre. She added the law would undermine Brazil’s progress in formulating and implementing environmental protections, including the setting aside of 523,592 square kilometers of protected areas between 2003 and 2009, an amount accounting for three-quarters of global protected areas established during that period.
HB 458 would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, more than offsetting the conservation gains of the past six years.
Development interests — including large-scale agroindustrial firms, cattle ranchers, loggers, and plantation forestry companies — have lobbied intensely to get HB 458 passed. Supporters of the legislation say that while it will legitimize land-grabs prior to December 2004, HB 458 move may improve governance in an otherwise lawless region where conflict over land and complete disregard of environmental regulations is widespread.
(06/01/2009) Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc accused other government agencies of working to undermine environmental laws in favor of Amazon development projects, report Reuters and the Associated Press. His charge comes a year after his predecessor, Senator Marina Silva, resigned due to the same opposition from development interests. Minc has taken an active role in battling Amazon deforestation, reducing credit access to illegal loggers and ranchers, seizing agricultural products and cattle produced on illegally deforested lands, and pushing for new protected areas. His efforts have angered powerful development interests and at times have put his at odds with President Lula, who is promoting new road and hydroelectric projects.
(05/17/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to approving a controversial law that would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, reports AFP. The move may improve governance in otherwise lawless areas, but could carry a steep environmental cost without safeguards.
(04/21/2009) Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has approved a measure that would speed up paving roads across the country, including paving a road that environmentalists have long-fought, BR-319. Environmental groups across the nation have warned of widespread deforestation if the measure passes the Senate and is signed by the president.