World’s sixth largest economy – At what cost?

The Centre for Economics and Business Research, Brazil has overtaken UK to become the sixth largest economy in the world. Economy of Brazil largely depends on mining and agriculture. Every year in the Amazon, millions of hectares of rainforest is cleared for planting of Soya and Sugarcane (two of the top Brazilian agro products). Large scale ranchers are cutting down pristine rainforest with scant regard for the flora and fauna living there. Even primitive aboriginals who live in those regions are hunted down. Since 1970, more than 70 million hectares of rainforest has been destroyed in Brazil. Local ranchers wield considerable political influence and even those politicians who wish to reduce the deforestation are unable to do so in present day Brazil.

The governmental environmental protection agency of Brazil is known as IBAMA (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis or Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources). This is the agency which maintains the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Brazil. National parks and other protected areas under the IBAMA cover about 100 million hectares of land. There is another agency called FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio or the National Indian Foundation). FUNAI maintains over to 600 Indigenous reservations with a total area of more than 109 million hectares. With 25% of the total area under official protection status, one would expect the wildlife in Brazil to flourish. But sadly, the reverse is true. Even these protected areas are violated by ranchers, illegal miners and other outside people, resulting in deforestation, contamination of rivers and the exploitation of indigenous tribal people.

Between 1998 and 2009, more than 1.2 million hectares of forest was cleared in protected areas just in the Amazon region. Many of the rivers near the Venezuelan and Guyanese borders has been left unusable and dead as a result of Mercury contamination (a byproduct of illegal gold mining by the garimpeiros). Destructive ranching activity and harassment of indigenous population has been reported from a number of indigenous reservations in the state of Rondonia. Although the rate of deforestation has been lower in protected areas as compared to the other regions, a loss of more than one million hectares of protected land in just 11 years point towards the failure of the Brazilian government in defending its own assets.

The Brazilian government should immediately take necessary actions to reduce the destruction of whatever forest remaining there. For achieving that goal the following steps should be taken:

1. Introduce maximum limits for the size of farmland owned by both
individuals and MNCs.

2. Improve the environmental awareness of the general population.

3. Increase the number of staff currently monitoring protected areas.

4. Sustainable development of resources should be undertaken for
unprotected areas.

5. Make mining companies liable for the environmental damage they cause
and prevent illegal mining (at least inside protected areas).

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