Amazon Squatter Law Fuels Deforestation Worries


Conservationists worry that further deforestation will follow from Brazil now allowing squatting on Amazon land – regulations that encompass parcels equal to the combined size of Germany and Italy.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva late last week signed into law new land regulations covering 67 millions hectares that are occupied without proper ownership documentation. However, some mechanisms inserted by the National Congress into this law open the way for possible fraud and do not contain strong enough conservation guidelines, which could lead to further cutting down of the Amazon.  Concerned with these consequences of the law, Brazilian NGOs, including WWF-Brazil, conducted intense lobbying to push President Lula to veto the added mechanisms.  WWF-Brazil supports the land regulation and believes it is essential to ensure property to family scale farmers dwelling in the region, if enforced with social and environmental responsibility.  But some aspects of the law may lead to an inappropriate occupation of Amazon’s lands. For example, the provision allowing the selling properties of more than 400 hectares after three years could stimulate the market for land in the region without necessarily improving the production of food or guarantees against deforestation.  Overall, the law does not establish preventive actions against future land occupation and deforestation, said Claudio Maretti, WWF-Brazil’s Conservation Director.  The new law also includes:• Expanding the maximum size of areas that can be legalized and regulated, from 100 to 1,500 hectares • Rejecting government inspection of land• Allowing lands exceeding 400 hectares to be sold to someone else just three years after being legalized, which will stimulate the land market in Amazon “We need to sensitize lawmakers and the government in order to bring Brazil to a position of leadership concerning sustainable development,” said Denise Hamú, WWF-Brazil’s CEO.  While WWF-Brazil applauded Lula’s decision to prohibit the transfer of Amazon’s public lands to private companies and the indirect exploitation through an intermediary, the government still needs to clarify how it will prevent deforestation on these areas. “The debate about climate changes and the struggle against deforestation – the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions of Brazil — is a global concern, and we are witnessing several natural catastrophes in the country”, Maretti said. “We need actions to encourage an environmentally responsible economy, more protection to the Amazon forest and benefits to local communities, as the creation of sustainable use reserves and real concession of the use to those who live in the reserves.”