Brazilian “Environmental” Law and the Arguable Role of Foreign NGOs – The Case of River Margins

There is a great difference between the widespread acceptance of the need for some level of protection and restorartion of  river borders or marginal strips of rivers, in the one side, and the many lies foreign NGOs which unduly with franchises in Brazil try to present the ongoing debate about the so called “forest code” which is taking place in the Brazilian Congress.

Straight to the facts!

First, the Brazilian so called Forest “Code” was initially passed during the Vargas dictature in 1934; and then it was revised in the beginning of the military dictature, in 1965; it has been never democratically voted prior to be enacted.  This is the first time it has been subject to a large number of public hearings all over the country and in the Congress.

Second, the so called “code” issued in 1965 established fixed figures for the width of the river margins to be totally protected from any kind of human occupation, including agriculture.  In this “code”, the width of the strip along the edge of any river keeps a relationship to the width of the river.   Most evidently, there is no necessary relation between one and the other.   In the Amazonian region, flood plains are very large, as opposed to rivers in mountaineous Southern Brazil.

The population of the Amazonian region NEED to be close to the water for fishing, transportation and water supply.  This population can not be displaced to a distance of 1 km river edge as measured during flood season because in the dry season they would be located to far from the water.  The current “code” establishes a standard 500 meter fully protected area in all rivers larger than 600  meter counting from the highest level of the river during the flood season.   The local population got acquainted to live up to  flood seasons by building still houses (palafitas).

Third, the Law was changed in 1989 and extended such marginal strips to a minimum of 30 meters from previous 5 meters  and to a  maximun of 500 meters from previous 15o meter (sse Artigle 2 of the text).  Nothing against it.  The only point is that the Law is not expected to be in force retroactively!  No citizen can go to bed in a legal situation and wake up in the morning as an environmental criminal.  The way the revised Law is being interpreted is such that 35 million hectares of currently productive agriculture land in Brazil would have to be destroyed with no compensation to their owners – not to speak about food security, of course.

Are you suprised?  That is it, this is Brazil!  No National Park is 100% owned by the Government – not even the ones created in the 1950s – due to lack of land acquistion procedures!  No National Park has its borders set in GIS – Geographic Information System,  but GIS is what is being asked to private owners of land at river margins and other protected areas now. Is it reasonable?  No protected area in the river edge has been defined by authorities except in very small tracts of private land when someone requested an authorization to build… and paid for it.

So, human history – human settlements over time – is not at all being considered by these foreign NGOs – and local NGOs funded with foreign money.  They need to pretend that the new proposal authorizes deforestation, and reduced protection of surface water and biodiversity.  They need to claim that there is an iminent risk of destruction of nature in order fo fund raise abroad.

Do not fund charities like WWF, Greenpeace and alike, because they are simply lying by prividing their donors with a partial vision of what is under discussion… just to get more funds.


Amazonian Forests, Brazilian “Environmental” Law and the Arguable Role of Foreign NGOs

Brazilian franchises of international environmental NGOs are attempting to attack the Brazilian Congress and Executive Branch under the pretext that changing an old law on forestry and soil protection will result in great damage for the environment.  It is a lie, ocasionally with the intention of promoting international fund raising or even to protect US agribusiness interests.  Not to adapt the current so named “forest code” would result in the destruction of 30 million hectares – at least – of existing Brazilian agriculture, including most vineyards and fruit production in the Southern part of the country, coffee and also production in the State of Minas Gerais, and much more.  As for the Amazonian rainforest, it is worth hightlighting that about 50% of it is already totally protected and conservation units (parks and other) and indian reserves.  Therefore, one can say that these foreign NGOs – such as Greenpeace and WWF – are attacking the Brazilian agricultural production and food security.

The so called “forest code” was enacted in the early stage of military regime and its first article states that “forests and other forms of vegetation are of public interest when designated as such for the purpose of protecting the soil”.  This focus on erosion and soil losses was later “forgotten” on behalf of the mask of a “modern environmental law”.  It is not the case at all.  Even after the military regime, when the Congress had no effetive powers, several amendments were made to the law based on instruments of that regime such as Provisory Measures – Medida Provisoria (MP)-, a sort of decree issued by the Executive Branch which was turned into a law when NOT voted by the Congress within a certain short period.  In a later stage,  MPs had to be voted within a short period but could be reissued unlimitedly.  A from the US ambassador in Brazil published by Wikileaks expresses his suprise with the fact that a MP on the “legal reserves” in the Amazonian region was reissued more than 70 times and was strangely considered as effective although never approved by the Congress.]

A “legal” reserve is an old concept of the first version of the so called “forest code”, enacted in the 1930s: 20% of each individual property should be kept as a forestry reserve.  At the time, the Brazilian Government was concerned about fuel supplies – then existing railroads fuel supply was wood – and 20% of rural properties were expected to produce wood (the British navy had similar concerns about wood reserves for shippyards before the times of iron and steel).  This concept was kept in the version of the law passed by the military, except for the Amazonian region, where the legal reserve was 50% of individual properties.  Was that a signal of environmental concerns?  Not really.

As a matter of fact, in a previous period – in the 1950s – , the Brazilian government was promoting human occupation of the Amazonian region by donating land to farmers from the Southern part of the country who were willing to migrate, the rule of thumb to prove that such individuals were effectively settled they HAD TO remove 50% of the forested area.  Very similar to the occupation of the West in the US.  Then, in the 1990s, when the French Le Monde published data from sattelites demonstrating that rates of deforestation in the Amazonian region were very high, the government of then president Cardoso decided to enact… a Provisory Measure – a non-democratic provision created by the military rulers – increasing the “legal reserve” in the region to 80% from prior 50%.  It was just for international public image – a major concern of president Cardoso –, and this was the MP reported by the US ambassador as strangely “reenacted more than 70 times, never voted by usually considered as effective”.  As a result, farmers that were invited to colonize the Amazonian region went to bed at night in compliance with the law and woke up with their properties in illegal status.  Who cared?  Not even themselves, who live and work in remote áreas!

These are among the folks who foreign NGOs now claim that will be benefited by an “amnesty” for deforestation and even “environmental crimes”.

It is worth remarking that the last census indicated that there are about 25 million people Brazilians living in the Amazonian region.

(To follow… but WHO FUNDS these foreign NGOs’ activities against the Brazilian agriculture?)