Traditional forest dwellers blocked the Jaracu river to protest against forest destruction.
This peaceful protest of boats and banners is part of an ongoing
quest to save their forests and way of life. The forest communities
want the government to grant them an extractive reserve, the kind
of sanctuary that Brazilian rubber tapper and community activist
Chico Mendes died for in 1988. Without this protection, they fear
loggers and farmers will continue to destroy their rainforest home
in Pará state, the eastern part of the Brazilian Amazon.
The Jaraucu river is the main transport route for illegal timber
around the town of Porto de Moz, a region well known for land
squatting and illegal logging. Farmers and loggers invade forest
areas, open illegal roads and threaten the traditional local
people, who depend on the forests for survival. Serious forest
exploitation shifted to the Porto de Moz area in 1990, after the
forests east of Pará state were logged to destruction. Overall, the
Brazilian Amazon has lost 15 percent of its forest cover in the
last 30 years.
For three years, these forest communities have sought to create
the Verde Para Sempre (Forever Green) extractive reserve. With an
area of 1.3 million hectares, almost half the area of Belgium, the
reserve would stop forest destruction and promote the forests'
But they face serious challenges. In this area of about 125
communities and 15 thousand inhabitants, loggers, farmers and
politicians are fighting the extractive reserve because it does not
conform to their economic vision. Some even resort to violence to
stop the process, the type of conflict that led to Mendes' 1988
murder at the hands of farmers.
Claudio Wilson Barbosa, one of the community leaders
participating in the protest, said "loggers and farmers are
invading our traditional land and destroying our forest and the
future of our kids. They need to get out and return the forest to
the real owners, the people of Verde Para Sempre."
National and international logging companies are also
implicated. Five years of Greepeace research has yielded a map
showing the illegal activities in this disputed area around Porto
de Moz. Companies including Curuatinga, DLH Nordisk, Eidai, Marajó
Island Business, Madenorte, Porbrás and Rancho da Cabocla are
directly or indirectly involved in operations here.
The customers of these companies should stop buying timber from
the region until the reserve is created. And these companies must
return the forests to the people of Porto de Moz.
Marcelo Marquesini, Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner, is also at the
protest on the Jaraucu river to support the communities' fight to
protect their land from the invasion by loggers. "We believe that
extractive reserves are one of the ways to ensure the sustainable
use of forests resources, and the traditional communities are the
first ones interested in protecting their forest land and
environment, which they depend on to survive," said Marquesini.
"The Brazilian government now holds the responsibility to create
the Verde Para Sempre Extractive Reserve, which would stop forest
destruction in Porto de Moz."