Joint Effort and Fines Helped Reduce Brazil’s Deforestation by 31%, Says Minister

Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, points to the current Administration’s policies to combat deforestation as responsible for the 31% reduction in the deforested area registered this year in the Brazilian Amazon.

In an interview, Wednesday, December 28, on TV Nacional, the Minister affirmed that the change in approach to the problem was fundamental for the country to reduce deforestation.

"In our country deforestation has always been a serious problem, causing embarrassment here and abroad and demanding an effective policy to reduce deforestation to a sustainable level," Silva remarked.

According to the Minister, prior to the current Administration, between 2001 and 2002, deforestation had increased 27%, from 18 thousand square kilometers to 23 thousand square kilometers.

"We perceived the seriousness of the problem and suggested to the core of the Administration another approach, involving other ministries as well as the Ministry of Environment," she explained.

As a result, she affirmed, an inter-ministerial group was set up in 2004 to draft the National Plan to Prevent and Combat Deforestation.

"The ministries of Environment, Justice, and Defense, the IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), the federal and highway police, and state governments began to work together. We increased our inspection capacity 60% and expanded our application of fines by more than 80%," she commented.

According to the Minister, another innovation was the introduction of a special investigative process to deal with organized gangs that make predatory use of forest resources and encourage squatting for this purpose. "This effort led to the arrest of more than 260 people," she pointed out.

In her recap of the year, the Minister also highlighted the increase in the number of environmental licenses granted to hydroelectric plants.

"At the start of our term, in 2003, 45 hydroelectric plants were paralyzed due to legal issues involving the environmental licenses that had been granted. The federal government made a huge effort to get them back on track," she affirmed.

Silva said that, in 2002, Brazil’s environmental licensing sector had only seven permanent employees. The rest were on temporary contracts.

"Things are completely different now. We went from seven to 70 permanent employees, highly qualified individuals selected through civil service exams for the process of environmental licensing.

"Of the 45 hydroelectric plants that were paralyzed for lack of licenses, only three continue to have this problem, the reason being that they represent investments that are highly complex from the environmental standpoint," she commented.

In previous Administrations, according to the Minister, the average number of licenses granted annually was around 145. Under the current Administration, she says, the average has already risen to around 225 licenses, granted through transparent procedures.

"To do this, we created the Transparency Site and an entire system to provide total transparency both for society and the entrepreneurs," she concluded.

Transparency Site – www.mj.gov.br/transparencia/

Agência Brasil

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