Under constant pressure, indigenous lands (TI) in the Amazon have recorded an acceleration of deforestation rates in recent years. Some of them, such as TI Apyterewa, in Pará, are especially affected, threatening the international goals assumed by Brazil to combat forest clearing and mitigate the impacts of climate change. To protect the Amazonian borders that remain preserved, it is necessary to apply effective actions based on environmental legislation.
This warning is contained in the letter Protect the Indigenous Lands of the Amazon, published in the magazine science. The text is signed by researchers Guilherme Augusto Verola Mataveli, from the Earth Observation and Geoinformatics Division of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and Gabriel de Oliveira, from the University of South Alabama (United States).
In the same issue, published on January 21, two scientists from the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (Inpa) – Lucas Ferrante and biologist Philip Fearnside – write about the risks of mining and indigenous peoples in the country.
“Brazil has good environmental laws that, on paper, have the potential to reduce and inhibit deforestation. However, the big issue is enforcing compliance with these laws. It is the first step, which must be associated with other long-term ones, such as the promotion of environmental education, the appreciation of the standing forest that promotes income generation for communities in the Amazon and the resumption and strengthening of actions provided for in the PPCDAm. In the past, they have already proved to be effective,” says Mataveli, who is a postdoctoral fellow at FAPESP, to Agência FAPESP.
The so-called PPCDAm is the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon, conceived in 2003 with the objective of continuously reducing devastation and creating transition conditions for a sustainable development model for the region. However, the fourth phase of the project, which would run until 2020, was dehydrated and interrupted. Recently, in Glasgow, during the Climate Conference (COP-26), the federal government announced Brazil’s commitment to zero illegal deforestation by 2028.
In the letter, the researchers call the upsurge in deforestation rates in the Brazilian Legal Amazon since 2019 a “dramatic increase”. (between August 2020 and July 2021). This corresponds to an area slightly smaller than Northern Ireland, a country with 14,130 km2.
It was also 69% higher than the annual average recorded since 2012, according to data from Inpe’s Project for Monitoring the Brazilian Amazon Forest by Satellite (Prodes). Recognized internationally, Prodes is considered the most accurate tool for estimating annual deforestation rates in the Amazon, with clear-cut monitoring carried out using the same methodology since 1988.
In the scientific journal, the researchers mention that the increase in deforestation still affects conservation areas, including indigenous lands, which should function as a kind of “shield” against devastation. In the TIs, the average annual rate of deforestation in the last three years was 80.9% above the annual average verified since 2012, reaching 419 km2.
Located in the municipality of São Félix do Xingu (PA), TI Apyterewa concentrated 20.7% of the entire deforested area on indigenous lands last year. The IT had already lost 200 km2 of forest between 2016 and 2019, seeing the devastated area increase from 362 km2 (which represented 4.7% of the entire demarcated extension) to 570 km2 (7.4%).
This advance resulted in an increase in pollutant gas emissions, mainly derived from fires, as pointed out in an article published in 2020 in the journal Forests, in which Mataveli and Oliveira participated.
“By studying the satellite data, we identified that forest conversion is mainly for pasture and agriculture. But we have located some mining points within the TI. Regarding pollutant gas emissions, we found an increase in that period, but it did not continue at the same pace, since deforestation does not always occur with the use of fire”, says Mataveli, member of a Thematic Project linked to the FAPESP Research Program on Changes. Global Climate Change (PFPMCG), whose main researcher is Luiz Eduardo Oliveira and Cruz de Aragão, also from Inpe.
In the text signed in sciencethe researchers report that “no effective action” was taken to stop invaders from the Apyterewa TI, of the Parakanã people, after the warning made in the article published in forests in 2020. TI had its administrative demarcation area approved by the federal government in 2007 and, since then, there have been lawsuits in court questioning the decree on the allegation, among other reasons, that at the time there was not ample defense and contradictory of not indigenous.
On March 9, the 2nd Panel of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) unanimously rejected the request of the municipality of São Félix do Xingu to cancel the approval. In a note released last year, the São Félix City Hall stated, among other points, that more than a decade before the demarcation, between 4,000 and 5,000 non-Indian settlers lived in the area, who should remain in the area.
In another study published by a group of which Mataveli was a part and which included the participation of Inpe researcher Gilberto Câmara, the scientists identified among the results the risks to indigenous territories arising from real estate speculation, in addition to a process of de-characterization, with forests primary crops converted to pastures and increased emission of fine particulate matter associated with fires. In this work, published in Land Use Policy, the focus was on the Ituna/Itatá indigenous land, in Altamira (PA).
“Conserving indigenous lands is paramount to honoring Brazil’s legal commitments, maintaining the environmental stability of the Amazon, combating climate change and ensuring people’s well-being. The existence of laws to preserve the remaining forests of the Amazon and the rights of traditional peoples is not enough. Effective law enforcement actions are needed to protect the last intact and preserved frontiers of the Amazon,” conclude the researchers in Science.
Sought by the press office to comment on the article published in the scientific journal, the National Indian Foundation (Funai) did not respond until the publication of this text. At the beginning of the year, in a balance sheet available on its website, Funai reported that it had invested around R$34 million in inspections of ITs in the country in 2021 and that it had opened the hiring of temporary staff to work in sanitary barriers and checkpoints. of access.
On March 31, a report released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Climate Focus points to indigenous peoples as a kind of “silent saviors” of forests.
And it says that Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru will not be able to meet their climate goals for 2030 if they do not protect the ILs. This is because, in the four countries, areas protected by indigenous people capture almost 1 million tons of CO2 per day, more than twice as much per hectare compared to non-indigenous areas.
The text Protect the Amazon’s Indigenous lands can be read at: www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abn4936.