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Brazzil - Ecology - August 2004

Brazil's Plans to Develop the Amazon

One of the major problems in the Brazilian Amazon is land- holding:
24 percent of the land is privately owned; 29 percent are
protected areas, which include Indian territories. The remaining
47 percent are public areas, devolved or disputed, in which
deforestation, illegal occupation, and squatting are rampant.

Marina Domingos


Picture Brazil's Ministry of Environment (MMA), in conjunction with the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (Unesco) and the non-governmental organizations Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Brazil, launched, on August 12, the Biodiversity Conservation Program for World Natural Patrimony Sites in Brazil.

The partnership will guarantee US$ 4.5 million in investments to strengthen environmental preservation in these areas.

Altogether, there are seven such sites in the country, but only five of them will receive attention in the initial phase of the program: Jaú National Park (state of Amazonas), Iguaçu National Park (Paraná), 25 Atlantic Rain Forest conservation units in reserves in the Southeast (São Paulo and Paraná), 8 protected areas on the Discovery Coast (Bahia and Espírito Santo), and 4 areas in the Pantanal (Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul).

The program will permit local populations to participate in training courses to work as guides and consultants in the conservation of the reserves. It will also stimulate tourism, attracting investments to these communities.

"We had many conservation units that were created without a standard of community involvement. This caused many conflicts," said the Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Cláudio Langoni. In his view, one of the big challenges of the project will be to raise the consciousness of these populations.

Langoni informed that the Ministry is studying the creation of new conservation units between now and the end of the year. According to him, the main focus should be on areas to combat deforestation in the Amazon.

Public Consultations

In March, the Ministry of Environment opened public consultations on the Public Forest Managment Bill. Criticisms and suggestions concerning the text of the bill were to be made by electronic mail (pnf@mma.gov.br) or telephone ((0xx61) 317-1140).

The purpose of the initiative is to end illegal occupation and inappropriate use of the forests. According to the director of the Ministry's National Forest Program, Tasso Azevedo, the government wants to establish clear rules that provide security for those who wish to invest in sustainable forest production. There are 64 national forests (Flonas) in the country.

The bill will define guidelines and rules for concession contracts and the form for managing public forests for production. They can be given a social function, as is the case of forest settlements for agrarian reform, or their use can be conceded to the private sector.

The criteria for these uses will be spelled out in the bill. According to Azevedo, the government will determine the areas to be set aside for protection and the areas that will be assigned a social function. The rest will be available for concessions.

Land concessions will have to obey certain rules, such as guarantees that forests will be conserved, that the wealth that is generated will be distributed democratically, and that the processes that are employed will be efficient and supervised, as well as inserting the forest into the process of regional development.

Concessions will be allowed for the production of wood, non-wood products, such as fruit, oils, resins, and essences, and for service activities, such as tourism.

The project will also define the terms of official announcements inviting bids on concessions. The highest price offered for use of an area will not constitute one of the criteria for awarding the concession.

According to Azevedo, what will be considered is the project that causes the least environmental impact, the one that presents a technically adequate proposal and guarantees socio-economic benefits.

Besides these criteria, the announcements will be submitted for public consultation, and the area to be conceded should receive prior approval from the Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources).

One of the major problems in the Amazon region is land-holding: 24 percent of the land is privately owned; 29 percent are protected areas that encompass conservation units and Indian territories. The remaining 47 percent are public areas, devolved or disputed, in which deforestation, illegal occupation, and squatting are rampant.

Marina Domingos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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