Friday, June 18, 2010

Activists call for a pause in the expansion of farming in Paraguay's Gran Chaco

Natalia Ruiz Diaz in IPS (Tierramérica): Extensive cattle farming in northwestern Paraguay is the leading cause of deforestation in the Gran Chaco, one of the world's leading regions in biodiversity and South America's second largest forested area, after the Amazon. The non-governmental Guyra Paraguay Association reported to the Secretariat (ministry) of Environment (SEAM) that deforestation last year totalled 267,000 hectares, 17 percent more than in 2008, just in the northern provinces of Boquerón and Alto Paraguay.

The association's study also found that in the first quarter of this year, 18,000 hectares of forested land disappeared from this rich ecosystem, located in the centre of South America, with 80 percent of that loss occurring inside Paraguayan territory.

The Gran Chaco is a semi-arid expanse of dense thorn scrubland that covers more than one million square kilometres: 25 percent in Paraguay, 62 percent in Argentina, 12 percent in Bolivia, and the remaining one percent in Brazil.

Eladio García, director of integrated environmental monitoring at SEAM, told Tierramérica that government regulation of the area is difficult due to the lack of resources. "There is a complete lack of awareness about respect for natural resources," said García, who noted the private landowners' violations of the country's existing land-use and land management laws.

Forestry Law 422/73, which regulates management and use of renewable natural resources, establishes that 50 percent of forests must be maintained on farms that are in preservation zones, and 25 percent on farms that are not.

The Pojoauju Association, an umbrella of dozens of non-governmental organisations, issued a statement earlier this month urging an "ecological pause" to logging in the area in order to establish a balance between economic production and forest preservation….

A landscape in Paraguay's Gran Chaco, shot by Ilosuna, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license

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