Critics slam loss of Brazil’s environmental chief
Brazil’s hard-line environment minister quit last week in a move lauded by agribusiness interests.
(Page 2 of 2)
But too much of what she achieved was either being rolled back or was not fully implemented, environmentalists say. Deforestation is on the rise again and much of those protected areas are protected only on paper.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Lula overruled her on the big issues, from his embrace of nuclear power to other development projects outlined in his government’s Growth Acceleration Program.
Perhaps worst of all for environmentalists is the feeling that Lula has sided too often with the agricultural lobby, a contention given some credence by the fact that since he took power Brazil has grown to become an agricultural superpower and one of the world’s biggest producers of beef, chicken, sugar cane, soy beans, coffee, and orange juice.
“Agribusiness is politically and economically important for Lula,” says Mr. Adario. “The debate has changed and the situation now favors the enemies of the forest, not those who want to conserve it through responsible development.”
The unenviable task for her successor Carlos Minc will be to please his government paymasters, big business, and green activists all at the same time.
Mr. Minc, like Silva, takes office with a solid reputation. In 1989, he won a United Nations prize as one of 500 notable green campaigners and he has won respect for his work as environment secretary for Rio de Janeiro State.
Minc vowed to continue Silva’s work and sparked immediate debate by proposing a new Forestry Police to patrol protected areas in the Amazon. He also told reporters he fully supported a plan to deny credit to farmers who do not comply with environmental legislation. The plan announced in January after interim figures showed Amazonian destruction on the rise once more, has irked agribusiness.
Farmers in Mato Grosso, Brazil’s agricultural heartland, say they are cautiously optimistic about his arrival.
“What we all wish is that he is not as radical as Marina Silva,” says Joao Birkham, the head of a Mato Grosso soy farmers’ organization. “There was no talking to her. We know that he will have to take the same line, but he seems more pragmatic and we hope we can at least discuss things with him.”
Key development projects
• Belo Monte Dam – The $7 billion project will supply an estimated 6 percent of Brazil’s electricity needs in 2014. Critics say it will harm fish stocks vital to 14 Amazon tribes.
• Santo Antonio Dam – $5 billion Madeira River project will provide 4 percent of Brazil’s electricity needs by 2012. Critics say it will require transmission lines through the Amazon.
• Jirau Dam – $5 billion Madeira River project will provide another 4 percent of electricity needs by 2013. Critics say it could cause flooding into Bolivia.
• Highway to the Pacific – $810 million highway would link the western Amazon to Peru, providing cheaper transportation to ports. Critics say the new road would increase deforestation.
Source: Associated Press