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ICMBio reduces civil society participation in endangered species protection plan

Decision alienates NGOs dedicated to conservation

Credit: ICMBio/via O Eco

24 Mar 21

ICMBio reduces civil society participation in endangered species protection plan

A change in Normative Instruction 21 (12/18/10) published by the environmental agency ICMBio altered the rules of the National Action Plans for the Conservation of Endangered Species, weakening the participation of civil society in the process.

According to an article on the O Eco website, the Technical Advisory Groups (GAT), created to evaluate and monitor the action plans and that previously had members from academia, NGOs and civil society associations, will now have “only public agents of the federal public administration up to a limit of five members,” says the article. The text also mentions possible “guests” in the composition, but does not clarify how this choice will be made, nor if the participation of academics and members of civil society will be mandatory or optional.

600 wild animals die under government responsibility due to neglect

Rescued animals suffer due to lack of proper feeding and care

Credit: Ibama/Reproduction

25 Feb 21

600 wild animals die under government responsibility due to neglect

Under the federal environment agency Ibama’s care, about 600 animals died for lack of tending in the last four months in the Center for the Treatment of Wild Animals of Rio de Janeiro (CETAS-RJ), installed in the Mário Xavier National Forest (FLONA), in Seropédica. The shelter – considered to be one of the largest in the country, with more than 1200 animals – receives birds, reptiles, and mammals recovered from illegal trade for rehabilitation.

Currently, the CETAS-RJ has only four employees. In November, the contract with the outsourced company RCA, which took care of the space, was suspended after the company warned in advance, in July, that it would not be interested in extending the agreement, G1 reported. In January, a new contract, made on an emergency basis, was also broken. The responsibility for hiring the team of keepers lies with Ibama’s superintendent in Rio, Navy Reserve Admiral Alexandre Dias da Cruz, in office since March 2019.

After the complaint, Ibama announced that the center will have 11 new animal handlers starting March 2, in addition to opening five internal processes to investigate the deaths of animals, but in a statement, said that “the contract for food and security of the site is still in full operation,” according to an article in O Estado de São Paulo. The Federal Police has already started an investigation on the case, considered an environmental crime.

The situation of abandonment of CETAS-RJ is a tragedy foretold and another episode of the dismantling of federal environmental defense agencies promoted by Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, marked by the dismissal of qualified technicians and the military trimming of key positions. In July 2019, months after assuming the superintendence of Ibama in Rio, Dias da Cruz ordered the replacement, without justification, of four of the ten outsourced keepers who worked at the site, reporter Bela Megale found out at the time. The decision mobilized the Rio Ibama Servers Association to send a letter to the administration. “Considering the years invested in training to prepare a wild animal handler, and that this type of professional is not easily available in the market, it is certain that a replacement in the team will cause enormous disturbances to the routine work performed by the CETAS/RJ. These disturbances will be translated into an increase in the number of deaths of the animals , which we consider unacceptable,” said the document to which the newspaper had access.

Praised by Salles, Floresta+ initiative has yet to take off

Yet still, the ministry says that the program is active throughout Brazil

Credit: @mmeioambiente/Twitter

23 Feb 21

Praised by Salles, Floresta+ initiative has yet to take off

Anounced wrongfully as “the largest payment for environmental services program in the world today”, the Floresta+ initiative, launched by the federal government in July 2020, still hasn’t got off the ground, as reported by the environmentalist portal Fakebook Eco. The payment to those who protect the forest – such as small farmers, indigenous peoples and traditional communities -, has not yet been carried out, since the public calls for the selection of beneficiaries have not been held.

The project was approved by the UN climate fund in 2019, at the beginning of the Bolsonaro administration, and obtained about R$ 500 million reais from the Green Climate Fund, in negotiations initiated by the Temer administration in 2018 – resources obtained for results in reducing deforestation in 2014 and 2015, in Dilma Rousseff administration.

Petrobras takes over five oil blocks in the Amazon River bought by Total in 2013

Environmentalists fear that this will increase the pressure for licensing

Credit: @ANDREBANIWA/Twitter

10 Feb 21

Petrobras takes over five oil blocks in the Amazon River bought by Total in 2013

Previously bought by French company Total, Petrobras is now taking over five oil blocks located in the Amazon River gorge, with authorization from the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP), as stated in the Union Official Gazette.

The company decided to take over due to the difficulty with the environmental licensing process of the blocks, located “in one of the most sensitive areas of the region and with extreme environmental wealth,” says an article in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. Total bought the blocks in an auction held in 2013 and never received the license for exploration. In 2018, for the fourth time, environmental agency Ibama denied the company’s request to drill in the basin. With Petrobras taking over, environmentalists fear that there will be greater pressure for the release of the blocks. 

International Biodiversity summit happens without Brazil and criticizes commodities from deforested areas

50 countries participated in the summit

Credit: Reproduction/Twitter via One Planet Summit

14 Jan 21

International Biodiversity summit happens without Brazil and criticizes commodities from deforested areas

Led by France President Emmanuel Macron, the One Planet Summit brought together, on January 11th, heads of states, entrepreneurs and representatives of NGOs to expand a global alliance dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity – without the participation of Brazil. The organization claims an invitation had been sent but the Foreign Relations Ministry says that the country was not invited- neither to the event nor to join the alliance.

The devastation of the Amazon, a target of recurrent criticism from Macron, was debated and the group took the opportunity to reinforce their intention of closing the market for traders who are unable to secure deforestation-free products. By June, Europe will have “the first law to put an end to deforestation imports,” said Pascal Canfin, president of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, according to a story by Jamil Chade for UOL.

The day after the meeting, the French president pointed his finger at the imports of Brazilian soy. “To continue depending on Brazilian soy is to endorse the deforestation of the Amazon. We are consistent with our ecological ambitions, we are fighting to produce soy in Europe!”, he said in a Twitter post. In yet another public exchange of splinters, Jair Bolsonaro responded with disdain: “For God’s sake, “Mister” Macron, ‘don’t buy soy from Brazil because then you won’t deforest the Amazon, buy soy from France. France produces 20% of what the city of Sorriso produces here in Mato Grosso [state]. You keep talking nonsense there, oh, Mister Macron, you don’t even know your country and you’re trying to tell what we need to do here in Brazil,” declared the president in his weekly live broadcast via social networks, as reported by the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply stated that Macron’s declaration denotes “complete ignorance about the cultivation process of the product imported by the French”.

Ministry of the Environment bids management of national parks to the private sector in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states

Those are the first parks to be auctioned under the new regulation proposed by Salles

Credit: Divulgação/ICMBio

11 Jan 21

Ministry of the Environment bids management of national parks to the private sector in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states

The national parks of Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral, located on the border between Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul state, were auctioned by the Ministry of the Environment and ceded to the private sector. On Twitter, Minister Ricardo Salles celebrated the R$ 20 million bid given by the Construcap group, winner of the trading session, and the R$260 million that should be invested throughout the 30-year contract. “Absolute success of the new model of federal park concessions!”, he said.

For the Federal Public Prosecution office, though, the bidding is irregular and should be annulled. The prosecutors filed a lawsuit against the environmental agencies Ibama and ICMBio, responsible for overseeing the parks, in the Federal Court of Rio Grande do Sul, demanding a more detailed basic project on the concession, but the request was rejected by the court.

Bolsonaro administration authorizes 56 new pesticides, totalling 935 in two years

In two years, the government authorized 32% of the agrochemicals currently available in the country

Credit: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama/via CC BY-SA 2.0

11 Jan 21

Bolsonaro administration authorizes 56 new pesticides, totalling 935 in two years

The Ministry of Agriculture published in the Official Federal Gazette the release of 56 new pesticide products – 51 generic and 5 new substances, according to a survey made by the G1 news channel. Of these, 37 are chemical pesticides and only 19 are biological, which can be used in commercial crops and in organic food production, for example.

Since the beginning of its mandate, the Bolsonaro administration has broken records in the number of agrochemicals allowed for agriculture. In 2020, there were 461 new registers, just behind the historic 474 mark, reached in 2019, according to the report.

Bolsonaro administrations softens regulations on artificial reefs

Environmentalists warn about potential risks to protected areas

Credit: Dan-Manila/iStock

31 Dec 20

Bolsonaro administrations softens regulations on artificial reefs

The Brazilian government has taken another step towards its project that aims at installing several artificial reefs along the coast, with the endorsement of the Navy and under criticism from environmentalists. On December 28, the environmental agency Ibama published in the Official Gazette (DOU) a norm (IN 28) that makes the process of environmental licensing for the installation of structures more flexible, including in marine conservation units. “The new text redefines the concept of artificial reef and opens some possibilities that were not foreseen before. In the definition of the 2009 regulation, it stated that the material used should be inert and non-polluting – expressions that do not appear now,” informed the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo.

Two days after its publication, one of IN 28’s most critical points, according to experts, was revoked. The text allowed structures originally licensed for other purposes could be converted into artificial reefs. As an example, oil platforms in disuse could be sunk without the need to remove the machinery. The revocation, however, does not impede the progress of the government’s project to install the structures, which, without proper evaluation of their environmental impact, are considered potential threats to the health of the marine ecosystems along the Brazilian coast.

Government gives concession to exploit natural resources at Humaitá National Forest

The gorest has three times the area of the city of São Paulo

Credit: Handout

23 Dec 20

Government gives concession to exploit natural resources at Humaitá National Forest

With the authorization of the federal government published in the Official Gazette of the Union (DOU) on December 17, companies, cooperatives and local community associations will be able to, from now on, carry out sustainable forest management and extraction of timber and non-timber products from the Humaitá National Forest (Flona Humaitá), in southern Amazonas state.

The environmental concession, signed by the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, lasts 40 years, according to the Public Forest Management Law (2006), and was already foreseen in the Annual Forest Grant Plan of 2020, the government said. Flona Humaitá has a total area of 472,454.90 hectares, equivalent to three times the size of the city of São Paulo, and will be divided into three management units.

A few days later, the DOU published the inclusion of nine Conservation Units in the National Privatization Program (PND), with the goal of guaranteeing “the sustainable use of the economic potential” of the regions, according to the government. The measure includes the National Forest of Brasília (DF) and the national parks of Serra dos Órgãos (RJ), Ubajara (CE), Serra da Capivara (PI) and Chapada dos Guimarães (MT).

Folha de S. Paulo, one of the most read Brazilian newspapers, launches environmental monitor to track government actions

The tool accompanies the official government gazette

Credit: Handout/Monitor da Política Ambiental

17 Dec 20

Folha de S. Paulo, one of the most read Brazilian newspapers, launches environmental monitor to track government actions

The newspaper Folha de São Paulo, in partnership with the Política por Inteiro initiative, launched the Environmental Policy Monitor, a tool that gathers official acts related to the environment published in the government official gazette . Through keyword mining, they select publications of interest, which undergo analysis by a team of experts responsible for indicating the most relevant and suggesting a classification. So far, 606 standards and regulations issued by Bolsonaro’s administration have been identified and classified.

With biweekly updates, the project’s goal is “to allow the public to have more knowledge about the federal government activity regarding the environment, which is not always simple, considering that norms for the sector are published together with thousands more related to other areas”.

Brazil halts UN biodiversity agreement

Environmentalists issued a manifest asking for the Brazilian diplomacy to review its posture

Credit: Diego Baravelli/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY-SA 4.0

24 Nov 20

Brazil halts UN biodiversity agreement

Of the 196 countries of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Brazil was the only one to express disagreement with the document that contained the 2021 budget of the body, halting the progress of negotiations of the new UN biodiversity agreement, that would replace the previous, signed in 2011. According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the country’s representatives claim that the process should not proceed with online meetings – adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic – since not all countries would have technical conditions to participate. However, sources that accompany the negotiations say that the intention of Brazilian diplomacy is to bar the new agreement.

In an official statement on November 19, signed by CBD president and Egypt environment minister Yasmine Fouad, Brazil is cited nominally as an obstacle to the continuity of activities: “I expected to announce that the decision on the provisional budget for the year 2021 was adopted. However, due to a comment that was sent by the Brazilian government aiming at inserting footnotes in the decision projects, it was not possible to move forward. The comment was an objection to the adoption of these decisions by the respective bodies”.

On November 24, a manifesto endorsed by more than 100 environmentalists and entities asked for an immediate review of the Brazilian diplomatic stance. The document was sent to Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who is at the head of the Amazon Council and of the Amazon Fund, and to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, and of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Tereza Cristina, as reported by the website Direito da Ciência. The text, which cites the potential damage to Brazilian trade relations if the blockade is sustained, points out that Brazilian diplomacy “does not demonstrate respect for its own commitment as a signatory to the Convention, nor does it demonstrate respect for the duties, principles and objectives established in its own Federal Constitution.” 

Environmental agents criticize license for hotel construction inside coastal protected area

A superintend, named by the minister, authorized the construction

Credit: Edwiges Lopes Tavares/Wikimedia Commons/via CC BY-SA 4.0

24 Nov 20

Environmental agents criticize license for hotel construction inside coastal protected area

IBAMA inspectors sent a technical note to the Federal Public Prosecution Office and to the Public Prosecution Office of the State of Bahia criticizing the authorization for the resumption of the construction of a luxury hotel in Praia do Forte (Forte Beach) authorized by Rodrigo Santos Alves, superintendent of the agency in the state. The endorsement annulled a previous decision by Ibama itself, which paralyzed the construction of a containment wall in the sand in front of the enterprise, at the risk of compromising the procreation of sea turtles on the site, as previously reported by the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo. A fine of R$ 7.5 million previously decreed by Ibama was also suspended.

The inspectors question the justifications given by Alves for the continuation and reaffirm the legitimacy of the previous inspection. “The entire team was unanimous in stating that the place where the wall was being built was a strip of beach sand. The materiality and authorship of the infraction are obvious, since upon arriving at the site of the intervention, the team from Ibama verified that the company was constructing irregularly and with very serious environmental impacts a containment wall on the beach sand”, says the technical note, to which the Estado de S. Paulo had access.

Appointed by the Minister of the Environment to the position, Rodrigo Santos Alves is also an entrepreneur and a real estate investor who works with luxury properties on the Brazilian coast.

Federal environmental agency allows construction of  resort on endangered turtle’s conservation beach in the Northeast

The resort construction was once prohibited and fined by Ibama itself

Credit: Projeto Tamar/Handout

19 Nov 20

Federal environmental agency allows construction of resort on endangered turtle’s conservation beach in the Northeast

The superintendent of the Brazilian Environmental Agency (Ibama) of Northeast state of Bahia, Rodrigo Santos Alves, authorized, against a previous technical decision by Ibama itself, the resumption of the construction works of a luxury beach resort in Praia do Forte; the enterprise poses risks to the procreation of endangered turtles species, according to conservation experts.

Nominated by Ricardo Salles in June 2019, Rodrigo Santos Alves gave his approval for the installation of a wall directly on the sand, in front of the hotel, in the sand, compromising the reproduction of the turtles, which advance to the shore to spawn. A fine of R$ 7.5 million that had been applied against the enterprise was also withdrawn. According to an article by O Estado de São Paulo, Alves, who is a partner of real estate broker Remax Jazz, which operates with luxury properties on the coast of Bahia, did not visit the site of the works, and justified his decision by claiming that “the licensor must balance the complex and often conflicting values between the environmental impact and the importance of the activity or venture, always seeking to promote ‘productive and pleasant harmony between the human being and his environment.

Also about Salles political and ideological usage of Ibama, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo published last week a report of an audit carried out in October by the Federal Audit Court (TCU) that points to the irregular appointment of military personnel to Ibama’s high ranking positions promoted by the Minister of the Environment. The practice even disrespects legal requirements of the government itself, such as meeting criteria related to professional experience and academic training. The report analyzed eight nominations made by Salles.

As the newspaper reported, “none of these nominations meets the basic requirements of Decree 9727 published by President Bolsonaro in March 2019, with the promise to honor the ‘meritocracy’ in hiring rather than political sponsorship in government.

Minister weakens protection at Fernando de Noronha national park and attacks congressman with childish remarks

Salles signs a permit to allow sardines fishing in the region

Credit: Globo/Reproduction

28 Oct 20

Minister weakens protection at Fernando de Noronha national park and attacks congressman with childish remarks

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, arrived in Fernando de Noronha National Park on October 28 and, in a few days, left the mark of his management in the region.

In the company of Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, Minister of Tourism, Salles granted to the private initiative the Boldró Viewpoint, a federal property that, according to the terms of the call notice opened by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), will house services of food and beverage, souvenirs and reception of visitors for an indefinite time. On the 30th, together with the Secretary of Fisheries, Jorge Seif Junior, and the president of ICMBio, Fernando Cesar Lorencini, Salles announced the authorization for sardine fishing within the Fernando de Noronha National Park. The measure was celebrated by President Bolsonaro, who congratulated the Secretary of Fisheries in a post on social media.

As pointed out by O Estado de S. Paulo, the decision ignores a technical opinion contrary to the release issued by ICMBio itself in 2016. The document, to which the report had access, warns that “making an exception for sardine fishing may imply precedent for greater pressure for the release of other fisheries” and that “there is no motivation in the contexts of biodiversity conservation, economic or historical tradition that justify the opening of the activity”.

The government of Pernambuco, where the conservation unit is located, has also expressed itself against the Minister’s decision. José Antônio Bertotti Júnior, Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of the state, declared in a note sent to the Fantástico TV show that the measure, in the long term, “will lead to the fragility of protection in the country and in extreme cases interfere with sustainable tourism practices, since it may alter the food selectivity of the shark, and may bring risks of attacks on the human population”.

Ricardo Salles’ passage through the archipelago was also the scenario of an institutional crisis. In response to a comment by Rodrigo Maia, president of the Chamber of Deputies, who criticized the minister’s stance on environmental protection measures, Salles’ official profile responded to the post by calling Maia “Nhonho,” a nickname given to the politician by government supporters, in reference to a character in the Mexican series “Chaves”. After the repercussion, Salles claimed that his account was invaded and did not recognize the author of the comment.

According to a survey conducted by Folha de S. Paulo, every 23 days on average, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) requests the removal of Ricardo Salles’ minister for his actions against the environment. The frequency is due to the resistance of the Justice in complying with the request. Faced with the legal maneuvers by the prosecutors, which make it difficult to continue the process, the solution found is to appeal. “There has already been a postponement of a trial, erroneous distribution of an appeal, delay in citing the minister and even a challenge by the MPF’s Inspector General’s Office,” he said.

Crisis at Ministry of the Environment deepens with accusations from workers and militarization of key positions

The dismantling of the Ministry is being denounced since Salles took office

Crédito: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

22 Sep 20

Crisis at Ministry of the Environment deepens with accusations from workers and militarization of key positions

On September 4,  Ascema, the National Association of Environmental Public Servants presented a dossier called “Chronology of a disaster in waiting: Bolsonaro’s government action to dismantle environmental policies in Brazil”. The document details the dismantling of the governance structure of the Ministry of the Environment and its agencies Ibama and ICMBio since 2018, and it was sent by Ascema to the National Congress, to the UN and to NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  

Even under growing pressure, the Minister of the Environment announced fresh changes to the structure of the ministry. On the 21st,  the minister replaced the head of the Biodiversity Secretary and nominated a former agribusiness lobbyist to run the recently created Secretary of the Amazon and Environmental Services

On the 22nd, minister Ricardo Salles confirmed the nomination of Military Police Colonel Fernando Cesar Lorencini as the new president for ICMBio. He has occupied the position provisionally since August; his nomination was published in the Official Diary of the Union signed by Minister Braga Netto, president’s Bolsonaro Chief of Staff.  Besides the military ranking at the head of a biodiversity agency, colonel Lorencini’s nomination drew attention because he was part of the police squad involved in the massacre of the Carandiru Public Prison in 1992 in São Paulo, when the police raid ended with 111 inmates killed.

Massive fires in Pantanal threaten indigenous peoples, kill animals and rings climate alert

Fires have ravaged, until mid-September, 23% of Pantanal biome

Crédito: Rogerio Florentino/Greenpeace

15 Sep 20

Massive fires in Pantanal threaten indigenous peoples, kill animals and rings climate alert

From January to August, fires in the Pantanal had already burned 18,646 km2, or 12% of the total area of ​​the biome, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). INPE also detected 10,316 fires from the beginning of the year until September 3, the highest rate for the period since 1998, when it started to monitor the area. Until that week, the data indicated that in the state of Mato Grosso, 95% of the destruction occurred in areas of native vegetation, according to the NGO Instituto Centro e Vida (ICV). On September 15, the state was the national champion of fires with almost 2,200 hot spots, accumulating 60% of the flames in the country, according to INPE. Alone, Mato Grosso State burned more in that span than the other eight states in the Legal Amazon. Since the fires weren’t controlled, by mid-September, they had already ravaged 23% of the Pantanal biome.

The Pantanal is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, home to around 1200 species of vertebrate animals, including endangered species and the most dense jaguar population in the world. Until 2020, it was also one of the better preserved biomes in the country. In Mato Grosso, the flames have already consumed over 90% of the area of ​​a sanctuary for the blue macaw. The species probably will return to the threatened with extinction list after the fires. The images of jaguars, anteaters, snakes and birds, dead and injured, have gained social media and shocked Brazil and the world.

A report by El País showed that the spread of fire to areas of indigenous reserves, such as the fire in the Indigenous Land Thereza Cristina, of the Boe Bororo people, forced the state government of Mato Grosso to declare an emergency on September 14. More than 100 bororo were hastily removed due to poor air quality; authorities took elderly and pregnant women to the Indigenous Health Center in Rondonópolis. After escaping the fire, the bororo ended up exposed to the coronavirus pandemic. In Rondonópolis, there were 156 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among indigenous people, in addition to 13 suspects and 31 patients, according to the Special Indigenous Sanitary District of Cuiabá, the State capital.

A similar situation occurred in the Xingu Indigenous Park, 900 kilometers away from Cuiabá, the second indigenous land most affected by fires in Mato Grosso. Sixteen houses were burned at the Diauarum post, in the center of the reservation. About six thousand indigenous people of 16 ethnic groups live in the park. In mid-September, 116 indigenous persons were in isolation in the Xingu due to the new coronavirus; 333 cases had already been confirmed.

Pantanal women who live on agro-extractivism (such as the collection of fruits and nuts) are also disproportionately affected by fires. The groups of women supported by the work of the NGO Ecoa – Ecology and Action, in Campo Grande (MS), lost areas of traditional crops in the region, such as bocaiúva, laranjinha-de-pacu and acuri, compromising their source of subsistence and income, in addition to the fire directly threatening their homes. “Here in Mato Grosso do Sul, for example, they are surrounded by monocultures and pesticides. The fires affected directly the reforestation work with native species that they lead”, reported the activist Nathália Eberhardt Ziolkowski.

According to NASA data cited in a report by the Reuters news agency, changes in ocean temperatures are a likely factor in creating drought conditions in the Pantanal and in the southern part of the Amazon, where the fires in August were the biggest in the last ten years.

In 2020, Pantanal experiences one of the worst droughts in its history, with rainfall 40% below the average of previous years. The main river in the biome, the Paraguay River, has the worst level of the watercourse in the last fifty years, aggravating the progress of the fire. According to measurements by the Geological Survey of Brazil, checked by UOL, the Paraguay River is registering one of the 13 weakest ebbs in the last 120 years. For researchers, human interference in the biome with livestock activities and expansion of the agricultural frontier, in addition to the growth of cities, may be exceeding the limits of what the Pantanal supports.

On September 20, dozens of civil society organizations and hundreds of individuals signed and forwarded an open letter to the Supreme Federal Court (STF) asking for the removal and civil, criminal and administrative responsibility of those responsible, by default or action, for the burning of the Pantanal.

Government does not spend on environmental policies, increases budget for big farmers and weakens land reform

Deter/Inpe system detects fires in recently deforested area in Porto Velho, Rondônia State

Crédito: Christian Braga /Greenpeace

12 Sep 20

Government does not spend on environmental policies, increases budget for big farmers and weakens land reform

The Climate Observatory (OC), a network of civil society organizations, analyzed data from the federal government’s Integrated Planning and Budget System and concluded that in the first eight months of 2020, the Ministry of the Environment executed just over 0.4% of its budget.

The OC survey released on September 11 shows that the budget execution of direct actions by the ministry until August 31 was R$105.000 out of a total of R$26.5 million. “The urban agenda, the minister’s priority, only spent R$18.000”, asserts the entity’s technical note. The government should have used the money to plan for environmental actions. For example, the biodiversity plan had a budget of more than R$1 million but spent only R$ 50.000 in the period. Other agendas, such as the promotion of studies on climate change, did not implement even a dime of its resources.

In addition, Bolsonaro administration cut funds from strategic areas for the prevention and control of forest fires in federal lands. Even with the increase of about 30% in burnings in the Amazon and the record fires in the Pantanal, the expected expenditure on contracting fire-fighting personnel fell from R$23.78 million in 2019 to R$9.99 million in 2020, a reduction of 58% according to official data from the Portal da Transparência [Transparency Portal].

In another measure related to federal spending and land use policies, Bolsonaro administration sent to Congress a budget proposal, in early September, for the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCRA) that practically zeroed the budget for actions aimed at landless populations and improvements in settlements in rural areas in 2021. Approximately 90% of the resources destined to the recognition and indemnification of quilombola territories and credit lines to settled families were cut; conflict monitoring and peacemaking actions in the countryside lost 82% of their funds.

The same proposal increases the amount destined to great landowners who suffered expropriation. Analysts indicate that the measure deepens the dismantling of INCRA, initiated under Michel Temer’s administration, and it could result in the extinction of agrarian reform in the country. During the election campaign, Bolsonaro called the MST (Movement of Landless Rural Workers) “terrorists”.

Cerrado Day: nothing to celebrate

Fires ravaged 2,000 hectares of native forest in Chapada dos Guimarães

Crédito: Michelle7623/iStock

11 Sep 20

Cerrado Day: nothing to celebrate

On September 11, Brazil celebrates the Cerrado National Day. The second largest Brazilian biome, the Cerrado occupies 22% of the Brazilian territory and is of strategic importance for water supply and biodiversity preservation. The biome, according to official estimates, is home to around 10,000 plant species, 800 birds and 160 other mammals, concentrating 5% of the diversity of these species on the planet. The Cerrado is known as the “Birthplace of Waters” because it encompasses three important South American hydrographic basins – Tocantins – Araguaia, São Francisco and Prata.

The Cerrado is also one of the most threatened biomes in the world, under pressure from agriculture and livestock, as well as logging for charcoal production. Between 2018 and 2019, deforestation advanced over 6,483 km2 of the biome, or four times the area of ​​the city of São Paulo. From January to August 2020, the state of Mato Grosso lost 1.7 million hectares to forest fires — 31% in savanna areas. In Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, the fire has already ravaged 2,000 hectares of native forest.

A report by the Jornal Nacional published on September 17 exemplified the dynamic of destruction: the TV report accompanied an inspection operation by the Brazilian Institute of Biodiversity and Renewable Resources (Ibama) in the Cerrado region of Matopiba area, in Tocantins. They showed the use of “chains” and burning to clean the land. Ibama inspectors covered over 7 thousand kilometers in the Nascentes do Parnaíba National Park and in the Jalapão State Park, verifying about twenty thousand hectares of illegal deforestation. Part of the destruction occurred within private rural properties, in areas destined to the Legal Reserve — which were to remain intact under the Forest Code. The MPF is investigating the complaints presented by Ibama. According to experts heard in the report, this deforestation affects the availability of water in the region; some municipalities in Matopiba already face problems in supplying the population.

Ibama public servants  protest against federal government

Environmental agents protest in front of the Ministry

Crédito: Asibama-DF/via Congresso em Foco

5 Jun 20

Ibama public servants protest against federal government

On June 5th,  World Environment Day, public servants and workers from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) gathered outside the Ministry of the Environment, in Brasília, the country’s capital, to protest against minister Ricardo Salles and president Jair Bolsonaro and in defense of the environment. The protesters held signs and banners asking for the resignation of Minister Salles and referred to the ministry’s leaked discourse in a cabinet meeting in April calling  for the deregulation of environmental legislation using the pandemic as a distraction. The workers also protested against president Bolsonaro and defended the role of public service. In an article by the website Congresso em Foco, Alexandre Gontijo, president of the Association of Servants and Environment Specialists (ASIBAMA-DF) said that the government doesn’t understand the importance of environmental conservation for the development of the country and denies science.

Endangered Atlantic Rainforest suffers 30% rise in deforestation

Caparaó National Park forest, located in Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo

Crédito: Heris Luiz Cordeiro Rocha/via CC BY-SA

27 May 20

Endangered Atlantic Rainforest suffers 30% rise in deforestation

The deforestation of the Atlantic Rainforest rose by 30%, when comparing 2018 to 2019, during the first year of Bolsonaro’s government. The NGO SOS Mata Atlântica revealed the data in a report by, who also points that since 2016 the deforestation rates were in decline. The biome is the most devastated and endangered in Brazil, with 12% of its original coverage and it has one of the richest biodiversities in the world. In April, the Brazilian minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, issued an order that recognized as legal properties deforested areas of the Atlantic Rainforest inside Permanent Preservation Areas (APPs), which allows rural farming in these territories and violates the Federal Forest Code.

Government plans to sink 73 ships along the Brazilian coastline

Fernando de Noronha National Marine Park has a rich and delicate ecosystem

Foto: Rafa Tecchio/via Wikimedia Commons/CC 3.0

2 Mar 20

Government plans to sink 73 ships along the Brazilian coastline

The federal government, with the support of the Navy but without clear environmental criteria, intends to sink 73 ships to create artificial reefs in all the main touristic locations along the Brazilian coast, most of them located inside biodiversity conservation units and protected areas. 

The project, which is being spearheaded by the president’s son, Flávio Bolsonaro and tourism authorities, plans to build “marine museums” at Maritime National Park of Fernando de Noronha, a highly sensitive ecological site. Biologists issued warnings about the negative impacts of the plan.

Government authorizes sports fishing inside conservation areas

The president was once fined for fishing in a restricted area

Crédito: Bolsonaro’s Archive via O Globo

6 Feb 20

Government authorizes sports fishing inside conservation areas

An ordinance by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) allowed sports fishing inside Conservation Units in all of Brazil’s biomes. The normative also applies to Integral Conservation Units, highly sensitive areas from the biodiversity and environmental protection perspective. President Jair Bolsonaro defends sports fishing with enthusiasm and was fined while fishing in a protected area in the coast of Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Oil spill increases coral mortality

Coral collected in beach struck by oil spillage in the Brazilian coast

Crédito: Projeto Coral Vivo/Handout

26 Nov 19

Oil spill increases coral mortality

A study by the Biology Institute of the Federal  University of Bahia (UFBA)  showed that after the oil spill, the coral mortality on the coast of Bahia increased ten fold. According to the researchers, the bleaching rate for the corals, which is usually around 5% -6% of the organisms per year, is now in 52% in the studied regions. The study also detected  impacts on biodiversity of species; before the oil, there was an average number of 88 species; after, the number fell to 47.

Federal universities study impacts of oil spill

Facing the limited government response, universities are mobilizing

Crédito: João Moraes/Personal Archive/via Agência Brasil

24 Oct 19

Federal universities study impacts of oil spill

Since the beginning of the oil spill crisis, federal universities and research centers have played an important role in the monitoring, analysing and supporting of the cleaning efforts, often standing in opposition to the official narrative of “it’s not so bad, you can eat the fish, everything is under control” adopted by the government. Researchers from Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) said that the monitoring of the affected areas need to be sustained for years to come, with periodic, constant analysis, to make sure people are not going into intoxicated zones. Another UFBA researcher said that governments do not want to call much attention because a case like this affects tourism, but there are health issues, both to who goes to the beaches and to those that make a living fishing in these regions”.

A research group at UFBA investigated 38 marine animals from the spill  areas and found oil in their digestive systems; although the level of  toxicity was not yet clear, health officials advised people to avoid consuming fish and seafood from the affected regions. Researchers made clear that the damage is serious and will last decades. 

By November, there was research about the oil spill ongoing at Federal Universities in Pernambuco,  Rio de Janeiro, Ceará, Alagoas and Bahia. The engagement of the Federal Universities and public research centers  is especially relevant as they have also been a target of the dismantling, anti-science policies of Bolsonaro’s presidency, facing budget cuts above 30% and being targeted by fake news coming from the Ministry of Education.  

Government tries to sell blocks for oil exploration near conservation units

Abrolhos holds the most diverse marine biodiversity in the South Atlantic

Crédito: ICMBio/Handout

10 Oct 19

Government tries to sell blocks for oil exploration near conservation units

On a public bid open to oil companies and consortiums, the Brazilian government included 4 blocks for oil and gas exploration on the Camamu-Almada Basin, located only 130 km away from the coral reefs of the Abrolhos National Maritime Park, the first of its kind and a milestone on ocean and biodiversity conservation in Brazil. The proposal to put up for auction oil blocks located in the buffer zone for Abrolhos Park faced strong opposition from NGOs and the Federal Prosecution Office. 

 

The government went ahead with the offer despite a technical analysis by Ibama that demanded additional environmental impact studies before it could even be considered for auction. Ibama, marine life researchers and environmentalists denounced the potential for irreversible damage in case of accidents and oil spills, and the impact on protected species such as humpback whales. 

At the auction, promoted by the National Petroleum Agency (ANP), none of the Abrolhos blocks received offers from bidders. Campaigners from 350.org and No-Fracking networks celebrated the result, claiming that social pressure scared companies from those blocks.

Bolsonaro wants to stop charging tourists preservation fees to visit national parks

13/07/2019

Crédito: Facebook

15 Jul 19

Bolsonaro wants to stop charging tourists preservation fees to visit national parks

Fernando de Noronha is a highly sensitive biodiversity area protected as a National Maritime Park located  in the Northeast of Brazil. There is a mandatory tax to visit the island and its beaches: Brazilian tourists pay R$ 106 and foreigners, R$ 212. President Bolsonaro used his official Facebook page to repost a video of a  tourist complaining about the visiting tax and said that the tax “explains why there is almost no tourism in Brazil”. He said charging so much is a “theft practised by the Federal Government – my government”. He then promised to review the existence of the tax and asks people to denounce similar practises in other places (meaning other protected areas). Environmentalists and researchers strongly criticised Bolsonaro’s declarations and proposals, claiming that the money from the tax funds the necessary structure to allow sustainable tourism in the Park, and that since the adoption of the tax system the number of visitors almost doubled.

Ministry of the Environment loses 23% of its budget

Budget to prevent and control forest fires was affected

Crédito: Lula Marques/via Fotos Públicas

7 May 19

Ministry of the Environment loses 23% of its budget

In the same week that the UN released a report showing that the planet is going through a 6th mass extinction process due to accelerated man -induced biodiversity loss, the Minister of the Environment formally announced cuts of almost 23% on its general budget. The cuts were directed to affect specific areas of the Ministry. The Secretary on Climate Change, in charge of implementing the goals of the Paris Agreement, had 95% of its budget frozen;  the area that works to prevent and control forest fires lost 38,4% of its resources; the licensing sector lost 42% and the program that supports conservations units lost 25% of their respective budgets. Two months before the start of the forest fire season, the cuts, along with the changes in staff and the silencing of technicians, compromised the operational capacity of the main environmental agencies in the country.

Bolsonaro’s decree extinguishes environmental participatory councils

NGOs criticize measure for its unconstitutionality and ideological motivation

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/Wikimedia Commons/via CC 2.0

11 Apr 19

Bolsonaro’s decree extinguishes environmental participatory councils

Bolsonaro government has extinguished all participatory councils of the federal public administration not instituted by law, through the Decree No. 9,759 of April 11, 2019. The measure dismantled, within the Ministry of the Environment, the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change (FBMC), the National Plan for the Recovery of Native Vegetation (Planaveg) and its respective Commission (Conaveg), the National Biodiversity Commission (Conabio) and the National Forestry Commission (Conaflor).

Carlos Bocuhy, president of the Brazilian Institute of Environmental Protection (Proam), told the website O Eco that the measure “lacks motivation and justification, presenting itself in a superficial and ideological way, without showing data, numbers, and criteria for an effective assessment of the functioning of the councils.” The Instituto SocioAmbiental (ISA), also heard by the report, classified the decree as an attack against the Constitution, which stresses the need for social participation in the elaboration of public policies, and makes clear “the authoritarian vision of the government”.

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