On the banks of the BR-163 in Pará, 62% of the public undefined forests are illegally registered as private areas. It is possible that these are Grilagem trials – illegal occupation of public land – emphasizes an investigation by the NGO Greenpeace Brasil.
The NGO examined 1,543,941 hectares of uninhabited forest around BR-163 between the parishes of Altamira, Novo Progresso and Itaituba. The observed region forms a kind of corridor between nature reserves and indigenous areas. The territory of these cities burned in August 2019, the so-called “Day of Fire”.
Unsigned forests are public areas that belong to the Union or states, but are not used as intended, such as protected areas or settlements. Deforestation that occurs in these forests is usually significant – in 2018 and 2019, 35% of the destruction in the Amazon occurred in these areas.
The investigation found 2,968 land registry entries overlapping unsigned forests, a total of 965,367 hectares of irregular overlap, and 62% of those forests.
For the analysis, Greenpeace used data from CAR (Cadastro Ambiental Rural), INPE (National Institute for Space Research), the register of public forests and aerial photographs.
The data on the area of influence of the BR-163 are considerably higher than those of a study by Ipam (Institute for Environmental Research in the Amazon region) on land grabbing in the entire Amazon region. The study, published in the journal Land Use Policy, found that 23% of all of these forests have been designated as rural land, which is prohibited.
In addition to the overlap identified by Greenpeace, an accelerated process of deforestation and fires; The two actions go together – after clearing the forests, the loggers use fire to clean up the area.
“If we look at the behavior of deforestation, we see evidence of land grabbing,” says Cristiane Mazzetti, spokeswoman for Greenpeace Brasil.
In land grabbing, a person occupies, deforests and begins to use a public area in hopes of securing future possession of the land.
Mazzetti says the region is known for pressure on local forests, deforestation and land grabbing. In addition, the Amazon areas around roads tend to have more intensive deforestation processes. According to the spokeswoman, the dynamic observed there is likely to be repeated on other of the almost 50 million hectares of undeveloped areas.
Between August 2019 and July 2020, the area analyzed by Greenpeace experienced an explosion of deforestation. 65,582 hectares were felled, an increase of 205% over the previous period.
Looking ahead to 2020 (through September), deforestation was 58,214 hectares, a 77% increase over the same period in 2019.
The second largest deforestation polygon of the year was registered in this region with 1,702 hectares of forest.
The analysis also shows that endangered species inhabit the region’s forests, such as the ararajuba bird and red-nosed Cuxiú simian, as well as other newly discovered species such as the munduruku tamarin. The NGO spokeswoman says deforestation in the Amazon is wiping out species before it is discovered.
The destruction still poses a health risk, Mazzetti recalls. “The next pandemic could occur in the Amazon.”
The problem of undetermined forests could be solved by regularizing land ownership, the goal of these areas.
Regularization is a point that the government of Jair Bolsonaro (without party) constantly cites when faced with the rapid growth in forest destruction. The president and government officials often say land titles help fight crime.
However, the situation is far from easy. In the first year under Bolsonaro, environmental fines fell to their lowest level in 24 years, and even events with a major international impact like “Fire Day” resulted in few fines.
According to Mazzetti, the government’s view on this issue is towards mass stocks. She says that this type of promise could lead to the idea that anyone who breaks into public areas and cuts them down will later be rewarded with regularization.
It is not necessary to look far to find such promises fulfilled.
In July 2017, then-President Michel Temer (MDB) approved (interim measure) MP 759, which increased the size of the public areas to be regulated from 1,500 hectares to 2,500 hectares and extended the amnesty date from 2004 to an amnesty. 2011.
The Bolsonaro government has proposed similar measures. In 2019, the President signed MP 910 nicknamed “MP for Land Grabbing”. This was an amnesty for invasions into public land that were practiced until 2018.
The MP was ultimately not approved – a fact constantly remembered by Bolsonaro who says it would solve deforestation problems – but converted into PL (Bill) 2633, which includes part of the MP.
PL 2633 was also criticized by the MPF, which says it “tends to encourage agricultural and environmental crime”. Prosecutors also allege previous similar programs failed to prevent deforestation.
“Such regularization, giving titles to land grabbers, will not solve the problem of deforestation. It will encourage even more invasions, ”says Mazzetti of Greenpeace, who points out that land use issues have already stemmed from previous administrations.
However, there is another factor in the Bolsonaro administration: discourse. The president, along with other members of his government, usually minimizes environmental degradation, promises to reduce protected areas, and consults inspection agencies like Ibama.
According to experts, such a speech endangers the members of supervisory authorities and encourages the practice of environmental violations.
Finally, Mazzetti reiterates that the undefined areas must be directed to attend to the collective interest. “This means indigenous areas, nature reserves and quilombola areas so that this environmental heritage, which belongs to all Brazilians with relevance to the climate and biodiversity, does not get into the hands of some land robbers. Unfortunately, this is a path that was not taken by the Government accepted. “