Brazil’s Environment minister, Izabella Teixeira, says that the recent surge in rainforest deforestation in the Amazon region was not normal and that the government is taking steps to discover the reason for the spike in trees destruction.
The Brazilian government’s satellite monitoring system, “Deter,” registered a 27% increase in deforestation in the period running from August 2010 to April 2011, along with an abnormal increase in the clearing of forestland during the last two months. Up more than 400%, and in the rainy season when it is more difficult to clear land.
It was exactly during the last two months that discussions of a new Land Use Code (Código Florestal) were taking place around the country and in Congress.
There is little doubt that many farmers were clearing land apace because they were afraid that a new Código Florestal would hamper efforts to expand cropland and cattle pasture.
Also, even if there are restrictions on future deforestation, those same farmers expect to be forgiven for all past illegal deforestation.
The state of Mato Grosso (capital: Cuiabá; population: 3 million (3.4 inhabitants per square kilometer); area: slightly over 900,000 square kilometers, just a little smaller than Venezuela, but bigger than the states of Texas and Oklahoma together) had the highest rate of forestland destruction, with many square kilometers cleared of trees and undergrowth.
“At this moment we cannot pinpoint the reason for the spike in deforestation,” declared minister Teixeira, who added that the Mato Grosso state office of Environment was going to submit a report.
However, she did note that the state government had informed the ministry that deforestation was taking place within state laws that were recently approved on revised economic and ecological zoning laws.
Minister Teixeira declared that the ministry had not seen the text of the new laws as they had not been formally presented to the federal government.
She added that there was no doubt about the unusual aspect of what was happening in Mato Grosso with very large areas, as big as a thousand square kilometers, being cleared at a time, along with the use of chains pulled by tractors to uproot trees.
The minister said that at this moment there are 500 inspectors in Mato Grosso examining areas where deforestation occurred. She also reported that a crisis cabinet had been set up to deal with the situation and was meeting weekly to discuss the matter of forest destruction nationwide.
The crisis cabinet consists of representatives from the ministries of Environment, Science and Technology, the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe that controls the satellites used to monitor deforestation) and the Federal Police.
Izabella Teixeira also said that if cattle or crops are found in areas that were illegally cleared they would be confiscated and donated to the government’s Hunger Zero Program (Fome Zero), which gives food to very low-income families.
Meanwhile the minister of Science and Technology, Aloizio Mercadante, declared that chronological records of what was happening were being compiled at the same time that inspectors in the field were being informed in real time by satellite of the situation in areas that were the object of embargoes. Mercadante revealed that next year a more modern and efficient satellite will go into operation.