Trucks transport timber illegally extracted from a land settlement in the Brazilian Amazon state of Pará.
(Jump to the update.)
As the name suggests, the National Institute of Colonisation and
Land Reform (Incra) is responsible for the government's land reform
programme. The distribution of land is a huge social problem in
Brazil - large tracts of land are owned by just a few wealthy
people, making it difficult for impoverished communities to find
areas in which to settle. The system of land reform means Incra can
allocate areas for these people.
But rather than moving communities onto land that has already
been deforested Incra has been allocating tracts of land that are
still part of the rainforest. In the state of Para, a frontline in
the struggle to protect the forest, land settlements have been
set aside in rainforest areas, including one that lies inside the
Amazon National Park, a fully protected area.
Campaigners from our Brazilian office have also uncovered
evidence showing that Incra has worked with logging companies to
position these settlements in areas where sought-after timber can
be found, so companies can make a profit from clearing the land as
well as open up new areas of the forest for exploitation. In
exchange the loggers are expected to provide infrastructure such as
roads and schools. Not only that, many of the 'settlers' are not
local people with a track record of using the forest's natural
resources in a responsible manner - instead, they come from other
parts of the country and act merely as a foothold for the
Incra is using the Amazon rainforest as an escape valve for the
problem of land distribution, but this just creates more problems.
Those who genuinely need the land are losing out as communities
are put in the hands of the logging companies, and the forest is
losing out when settlements should be on land already cleared. But
we all lose out, because as more of the forest is destroyed,
Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions rise and climate change
Hopefully, this time next year we'll be reporting that
deforestation rates in the Amazon have fallen once again. Unless,
that is, the Brazilian government manages to sabotage its own
forest protection programme in the meantime.
Update - 28 August 08 -
Originally the government denied our allegations and the ones
from the Prosecutor's office. But today, a federal judge ruled
that our evidence was compelling enough to suspend all 99 of the
The judge also ruled that INCRA was operating improperly,
withoutregard for environmental laws. Now, no further settlements
will beallowed without the approval of the Brazil's federal
If INCRA appeals the ruling it will likely end up in years of
"This is a very good development. We fervently hope INCRA will
usethis opportunity to put their house in order, and carry out a
seriousinvestigation," said Greenpeace Amazon campaigner André
Muggiati. "Either way, we will keep a close watch."
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