Guest Article

Brazil Revokes Amazon Clearing Ban

April 19, 1999
By Joelle Diderich

Fragilecologies Guest ArticleBRASILIA, April 15 (Reuters) – Brazil on Thursday lifted a blanket ban on clearing land in the Amazon after loggers and landowners agreed to a measure aimed at slowing the rate of destruction of the world's biggest rain forest.

The environment ministry said it was revoking a measure that had suspended all new permits for felling trees in the Amazon River basin following unprecedented talks during which all parties involved agreed to new guidelines.

"This is the first time that there is a commitment involving non-governmental organizations, lawmakers, loggers and all sectors. The government considers this a great victory," said a ministry spokesman.

Authorities applied the moratorium in February following the publication of data showing that an area more than half the size of Belgium — 6,500 square miles (16,800 square km) — had been cleared in 1998.

This figure represented a 27 percent jump from 1997 — when the equivalent of 5,000 soccer fields of jungle were lost every day, according to one estimate.

The agreement signed on Thursday reduces the maximum limits for land-clearing by small farmers and promises large landowners faster handling of their clearing applications, the ministry spokesman said.

Loggers, farmers and others who make their living from the rain forest also pledged to make better use of areas already degraded and limit the use of fire to clear new areas.
Environmentalists welcomed the move but cautioned that the success of the new guidelines depended on the vigilance of the government's Environmental Agency (Ibama), which has been plagued by allegations of corruption.

"We think it was good to revoke this ban because it generated a lot of misunderstanding and conflict," said Roberto Smeraldi, head of a programme to protect the Amazon with Friends of the Earth.

Smeraldi said that during a trip last week to Mato Grosso state, where illegal mahogany logging is rife, he saw deforestation had increased despite the ban.

Out in the field this ban simply has no effect whatsoever," he said. "The problem which remains for any guidelines is the state's lack of capacity to implement them."

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