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Hunt for wood robbers: This is how Brazil is fighting illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest


Brazil's new President Lula wants to drastically reduce deforestation in his country. Germany supports reforestation and small farmers with millions of euros. But why is the turnaround so difficult?

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A raid deep in the Amazon rainforest.

Ten agents from the Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA are looking for criminals who are illegally cutting down trees and destroying the jungle.

They are accompanied by heavily armed federal police officers.

It is the first mission in the term of office of the new Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, which began at the beginning of January.

His predecessor Jair Bolsonaro even pushed deforestation.

Lula has promised to end it.

Givanildo dos Santos, Head of the IBAMA Mission:

“The course of the previous government caused many people to invade areas, cut down forests and establish farms.

They thought the government would eliminate native lands and legalize trespassing for cattle ranching.”

Satellite images put the officials on the trail of deforestation, which is strictly forbidden in this indigenous reserve: It is located in the north of the country, in the state of Para, near the governorate of Uruará.

Lumberjacks and ranchers recently illegally cut down the forest here and burned some of it.

The massive slash-and-burn operations even meant that the Amazon rainforest released more CO2 in some years than it could absorb.

According to official figures, around 18 percent of the rainforest in the entire Brazilian Amazon region has been cleared and destroyed since 1990.

Under ex-President Bolsonaro, deforestation increased by leaps and bounds: the ultra-right politician relaxed the laws to protect the forest and cut the funds for the monitoring authorities.

The result: in 2020 around twice as much forest was cut down as in 2012, and in 2021 it was almost three times as much.

Under Bolsonaro, the Brazilian rainforest lost an area larger than Denmark.

Around 12,000 square kilometers in the last year alone.

But now Lula da Silva is – again – President and has declared Brazil's environmental protection to be one of his core concerns.

Jens Glüsing, SPIEGEL correspondent in Brazil:

»Lula promised during the election campaign – and now again at the COP, at the environmental conference in Egypt – to stop deforestation completely by 2030.

That is, I would say, very sporty.

This is difficult.

However, during his first two terms of office from 2003 to 2010, he proved that a reduction, i.e. a reduction in deforestation, by more than 80 percent is possible.

He did that.«

But even under President Lula, deforestation will continue for the time being.

An immediate ban on all deforestation in the Amazon is politically hardly feasible.

Jens Glüsing, SPIEGEL correspondent in Brazil:

“On the one hand, Lula wants to protect the jungle, but on the other hand, the Amazon region also needs a certain infrastructure, which means above all roads.


However, on many of the roads that the government has dug through the rainforest, local residents are building illegal side arms to connect their homes to the transportation system.

In order to combat further destruction of the rainforest, Germany is also supporting the new Brazilian government.

Only: is that enough?

Jens Glüsing, SPIEGEL correspondent in Brazil:

»The simple answer is: No, Germany is not doing enough.

The somewhat more complicated, differentiated answer is: yes, but you have to look very carefully at how the money is being spent.

It's like this: Most of the German aid for the Amazon region came through the Amazon Fund, financed together primarily with Norway.

Norway pays over 80 percent into the fund, about a billion dollars and Germany 10 percent - and the remaining 10 percent is kind of pieced together.

That money had been frozen.

In the case of Germany, that was 35 million euros.

They were frozen under Bolsonaro because Bolsonaro wanted to misuse the money.

The money will now be released again.

But 35 million is of course very little in a huge area like the Amazon.”

The IBAMA agents continue to look for environmental destroyers in the following days.

But many of the areas they study seem deserted.

Only a few corn plants still grow knee high here - a sign for officials that the area should be converted to cattle pastures.

The illegal loggers and ranchers responsible for this have fled.

David Baselshoff, IBAMA agent:

“We need stricter laws and more staff to fight them.

Because a lot of times we're putting pressure on a deforestation front and they're moving to another place quickly, so we need the logistics so the team can fight them anywhere."

The search continues.

The destruction of the rainforest for the time being too.

One can only hope that the Amazon ecosystem will not be lost by the time deforestation ends.

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2023-02-02

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