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
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.
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 (email@example.com) 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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.