While the Pantanal was being consumed by flames, senators in the commission that accompanied the fire-fighting measures relied on drawing up a statute for the biome in order to avoid new environmental tragedies. However, a dispute that separated parliamentarians from Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul resulted in the initiative being buried.
A new bill became a bill drafted by Committee Chairman Senator Wellington Fagundes (PL-MT). Now he must go through the normal procedures of the legislature, without the pressure of the moment caused by public opinion in the face of the death of exotic animals and the loss of native vegetation.
Without submitting a law, the Commission’s final report pointed to the need for a permanent brigade in the Pantanal to fight the fires, and adopted the “firefighter poke” thesis.
The fires destroyed an area of 40,100 km² of the Pantanal, which corresponds to more than a quarter of the biome. Experts estimate that it can take five decades for vegetation to recover.
The situation could worsen in the years to come as the National Secretariat for Civil Protection – in the presence of the committee’s own hearing – estimates that the severe drought could last five years.
In the heat of the moment, two commissions were set up in Congress to oversee the federal government’s confrontation measures and to investigate the causes of the record fires. In the Chamber of Deputies, the opposition took the lead at work, maintaining a critical tone of the government and trying to point out the culprits.
On the other hand, the Senate committee was rated as “friendlier”, and it was not for nothing that the most important ministers on the subject attended. The work then took on a more meaningful tone, and in this context drawing up a statute for the biome became the task of the senators.
Resistance to the drafting of the statute began in isolation with Senator Soraya Thronicke (PSL-MS). The parliamentarian associated with the agricultural sector defended that the state of Mato Grosso do Sul already had laws to preserve the Pantanal.
“Mato Grosso do Sul has its Pantanal status, which was established by a decree,” he says of the decree that governed the forest law in the state.
“Getting this decree out was very difficult at the time, as mostly rural producers had to accept the preservation, in addition to the 20% they already had to preserve, another 30%. So you imagine what it is like to have equity and use 50% of it. So it was a lot of discussion, hurt, a lot of discussion. They know what soap opera is for the Brazilian in order to be able to produce, ”he said.
“Because I work closely with the Agro and it is the Agro of any size that you can imagine, from the small producer. It is not the question of the large rural producer that is against it. I’m not lobbying here, never for an industry. I have received the opposite position from everyone, ”he added.
Commission chairman Senator Wellington Fagundes (PL-MT) acknowledges that his state is late in enacting an ordinance of the Forest Code with reference to the Pantanal, but declares that it would be possible to have a general statute for the biome with general norms and make suggestions for environmental education among others.
“The Pantanal Statute we proposed was just a guiding piece of legislation, it wasn’t specific at all. Mato Grosso do Sul fears that we will do something to harm what they have already done, ”he said.
At the end of the work, opponents of a statute were already in the majority. Fagundes therefore used the prepared draft and submitted it as a draft law on individual authorship.
In the absence of the statute, one of the main points of Senator Nelsinho Trad’s (PSD-MS) final report is the recommendation for the establishment of a permanent brigade to fight the fires.
The document does not criticize the slowness of the federal government in this regard, although the President of Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), Eduardo Fortunato Bim, confirmed in a committee hearing that the hiring of brigadiers had been delayed .
With regard to human factors, only the “lack of preventive and maintenance measures in the right of way” is mentioned.
Brigadiers are usually hired from April to receive training and be in the field at the start of the dry season. That year, however, the contracts weren’t closed until the end of July when the fires were already consuming a large portion of the biome.
“We had a setback this year because of the pandemic. This was delayed a little and we had a small loss of preventive training, a practice we do every year, ”said the agency’s president.
The document then lists the need for permanent brigades already in place to act when the fires start. In addition, the existence of reservoirs is noted as fundamental, as one of the difficulties in fighting fires this year has been getting teams and water to places that are difficult to access.
“Difficulties in accessing water and inadequate staff, vehicles and equipment were factors that made it difficult to control the spread of the fire in the Pantanal. That is why it is important that the Union has permanent fire brigades, properly equipped and safe water reservoirs in order to protect this legacy of all Brazilians, the Pantanal, ”the document says.
The final report puts great emphasis on the climate problem as the main cause of the historical burns of the biome. However, the text also highlights one factor that contributed to the spread of the fires and the reduction in animal husbandry in the region.
In other words, without mentioning the name, the document confirms the controversial thesis of the “firefighter stalk” defended in the Commission by Agriculture Ministers Tereza Cristina and Environment Ricardo Salles. The thesis argues that cattle are consuming biomass, which is contributing to the spread of the outbreak. Experts question this cause-effect relationship.
“Despite the occurrence of forest fires and fires, which are strongly related to climatic conditions, areas with non-grazing fields with the accumulation of grass biomass are highly combustible material, which contributes significantly to the initiation of fires,” says the text.
Attending a commission hearing on October 9th, Tereza Cristina said: “A disaster happened because we had a lot of dry organic matter. If we had a little more cattle in the Pantanal, it might have been an even smaller disaster.” than what we had this year ”.
The document also recommends the use of controlled fire, an efficient technique when used by environmental agencies. However, experts point out that if the practice is passed down indiscriminately to farmers, this can have the opposite effect.
Other points defended in the report are the creation of a Pantanal Council and a Biome Financing Fund, two mechanisms that already exist in relation to the Amazon.