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Government to Reduce Environmental Fines in Exchange for Services

Government to Reduce Environmental Fines in Exchange for Services

President Michel Temer visited the Caiman Ecological Reserve in the Pantanal, Mato Grosso do Sul, earlier this month. There he signed a decree allowing environmental fines to be paid for with services. Those who participate will earn a 60 percent discount on their fine.

Brazil’s Pantanal region (an area about the size of Portugal, which spans the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul as well as the border region of Bolivia and Paraguay) is considered a national treasure and classified by the United Nations as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Though the Amazon gets most of the media attention for deforestation because of its size and impact, the Pantanal has also been facing a crisis of deforestation. In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul alone, 70,648 hectares were deforested in 33 municipalities. That is roughly the equivalent of 100,000 times the size of the Maracanã soccer stadium.

Cattle raising and soy plantations are the two main forms of agro-business in the region. The Executive Director of SOS Pantanal, Felipe Augusto Dias, warns that part of the problem is soy plantations being cultivated close to the water level, increasing erosion and making the flow of agrotoxins used in the plantations impossible to isolate.

Many traditional cattle farmers in the region have been there for several generations and use methods that allow the area’s biodiversity to continue flourishing. But in recent years, an influx of new farmers has caused noticeable degradation of the area’s biodiversity.

The government currently holds 4.6 billion reais (about USD$1.5 billion) in unpaid environmental fines according to Suely Araújo, President of the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (Ibama).

Those who participate in the program will be given responsibility over a deforested or damaged area with a plan to recuperate it. They will also be responsible for the recuperation of the area that was damaged by them. Among two major areas designated for recuperation are the São Francisco Basin and the Taquari River.

In addition to this decree, Temer also signed a provisionary measure that establishes new rules for the application of the resources collected by environmental fines. The measure will permit the use of 1.2 billion reais (about USD$380 million) in funds for the preservation of areas such as the Serra da Bodoquena National Park and for improving infrastructure in these locations.