Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brazil grants land rights to squatters living in Amazon rainforest

Tom Phillips in the Guardian (UK): Brazil's president Lula has approved a controversial law which grants land rights to squatters occupying land in the Amazon — campaigners fear it will result in a further increase in deforestation of the Amazon region. The law – known as "provisional measure 458" – is one of the most controversial environmental decisions of Lula's two terms in office, with the president coming under intense pressure from both environmental groups and the country's powerful agricultural lobby.

Marcelo Furtado, Greenpeace's campaigns manager in Brazil, said the approval of the law showed that Brazil's policy on global warming was contradictory: "On one hand Brazil is setting targets for the reduction of carbon emissions and on the other it is opening up more areas for deforestation."

Brazil's government says more than 1m people will benefit from the law, which covers 67.4m hectares of land, an area roughly the size of France. It believes the law will reduce violent conflicts by giving people private ownership of the land they live on, and will make it easier to track down those illegally felling trees.

But environmentalists – who have dubbed it the "land-grabbers bill" – fear the new rules will offer a carte blanche for those wanting to make money by destroying the Amazon. They say the law effectively provides an amnesty for those who have devastated the Amazon over the last four decades. Around 20% of the Amazon has already been lost, according to environmental campaigners, and deforestation globally causes nearly a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions. "This measure perpetuates a 19th century practice [of Amazon destruction] instead of taking us towards a new 21st century strategy of sustainable development," said Furtado….

Torching a national park in Brazil in 2007, shot by Antonio Cruz, Wikimedia Commons via Agência Brasil, under the Creative Commons License Attribution 2.5 Brazil)

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