Amazon Deforestation, Already Rising, May Spike Under Bolsonaro
A new political climate in Brazil has led to a recent increase in the pace of rainforest felling.
Damming the Tapajós
The Tapajós River is the Amazon’s last undammed clearwater tributary. The basin that surrounds it is roughly equal to 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon region and about the size of France.
The Tapajos River Basin
The Tapajos River basin is a remote Brazilian region in the Amazon rainforest about the size of France. Roughly approximately 820,000 people, including 10 indigenous groups, live there.
The government did suspend plans to build an at the heart of this sprawling project in 2016. At the time, it cited the “unviability of the project given the indigenous component” and stated it would in 2018, before Bolsanaro took office.
Yet many observers remain very concerned about how Bolsonaro’s presidency will affect the Munduruku and the rainforest they protect. Groups like – a nonprofit dedicated to the “protection of rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them” – are not about to declare victory.
South American Gambit
Brazil’s Amazon development plans are part of a broader gambit that includes all the . First conceived in 2000, the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America is designed to build a continental economy through new infrastructure that provides electricity for industrialisation and facilitates trade and transportation.
Known widely by its Spanish and Portuguese abbreviations as IIRSA, this initiative is turning , of which is located on Brazilian territory, into a source of hydropower and a transportation hub connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It will become easier to , and manufacturing will expand, stimulating .
New Wave of Development
Bolsonaro has not yet confronted the Munduruku or taken concrete actions to keep his promises about developing the Amazon. But he has taken steps that point in this direction with the . He has also for demarcating indigenous lands from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Agriculture, which an .
The new Brazilian president’s plans for the Amazon come on the heels of decades of deforestation following the construction of roads and hydropower facilities during the 1960s and 1970s. This initial wave of construction opened the sparsely populated region to an influx of newcomers, and contributed to the of the forest over four decades.
Then came a wave of – such as the stricter enforcement of logging laws, the expansion of protected areas and the voluntary decision by soybean farmers to refrain from clearing the forest – after 2000. It seemed to me and others that a new era of .
But that was before I understood the full implications of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America.
Should all of its components be built, the new transportation and energy infrastructure would be likely to spark a new wave of deforestation that I fear could have disastrous impacts on the indigenous communities living in the region. The new projects need only to repeat what the earlier projects did. This would bring total deforestation to 40 percent.
Climate scientists such as worry that this magnitude of forest loss would push the Amazon to a “tipping point” and undermine the , which . The outcome would be a drier climate in the Amazon, which has already begun to , and the transformation of the forest into savanna. Indigenous people would suffer, and the Amazon’s biodiversity would disappear.
A massive increase in the pace of Amazonian deforestation could bring about climatic changes in both South and North America. Scientists predict that precipitation would decline in many areas of the Americas, including the and the . The whole world would suffer from reduced agricultural production in these two regions, which are of agricultural commodities like .
The Rebounding Amazon Deforestation Rate
In 2018, 3,050 square miles of the Brazilian Amazon was deforested, nearly twice the land clear-cut in 2012.
Attacking the Amazon
To be sure, some of this construction is already underway in Brazil, particularly for hydropower. So far, have either been built or are under construction, notably on the Xingu River and the dams on the Madeira Rivers. And Bolsonaro’s predecessors had .
Israeli PM meets Bolsonaro in Brazil
I remain skeptical, however, given that he seems to be staffing his government in preparation for construction projects that could devastate the Amazon, reducing its biodiversity and destroying its ecological and cultural treasures.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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