Five keys to understanding the Argentine forest emergency

Due to the advance of the agricultural frontier, Argentina is going through a “forest emergency”. This is how Greenpeace denounces itwhich recalls that in the last 25 years, seven million hectares of forests have been lost, an area equivalent to that of the province of Entre Ríos.

Given this scenario, the global NGO launched a digital consultation where it invites you to vote on whether illegal clearing and intentional forest fires should be criminal offences. The results will be delivered to Congress next year.

To understand the severity and track prospects to remedy it, Fontevecchia mode spoke with Hernan Giardinicoordinator of the Greenpeace forest campaign.

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1. How much damage is caused by illegal clearing?

Today, one hectare of forest is lost every two minutes, the equivalent of the area of ​​30 soccer fields per hour. More than half of the clearings are illegal, but there is no penalty for those responsible.

On the other hand, 95% of forest fires are due to human causes. Despite the enormous environmental achievement that was the sanction of the Forest Law in 2007, and added to the fact that since 2014 there has been a decrease in deforestation, half of the clearing is carried out where it is not allowed.

Forests are essential for climate and water regulation, and contain the largest number of species on the planet. they give us key resources such as food, medicine and wood, and are the livelihood and territory of indigenous and peasant communities. Fines are clearly not enough to discourage illegal deforestation.

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2. Who are the main responsible parties?

Mainly agricultural businessmen and real estate developers. In addition to illegal clearing, there is complicity with provincial governments that do not control or authorize clearing where it is not allowed.

The organization ensures that “the illegal clearing largest in the country” is on a farm belonging to the agricultural businessman Juan José Karlen, 20 kilometers from Dragones, in the north of Salta. It has almost 12,000 hectares: the size of half the city of Buenos Aires.

3. Is it possible to achieve a balance between clearing and productive activities?

The Forest Law is that balance. There are areas where dismantling is allowed, after an environmental impact study and a public hearing. But they are also disassembled where it cannot be. Beyond that, you can take advantage of the forest without clearing it, for example removing wood in a rational and sustainable waywith production of honey, tourism and extensive livestock under mount.

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4. Why is illegal clearing changed to the category of criminal offences?

Only in 2022, deforestation in northern Argentina was more than 110,000 hectares and, if the fires are added, the affected area exceeds 200,000. 75% of the clearings are concentrated in four provinces: Santiago del Estero, Salta, Chaco and Formosa, particularly in the forests of the Gran Chaco, the second largest forest ecosystem in South America.

Until now, those responsible are only occasionally punished, and they do not reforest. The amount of the fines is usually included in the production costs. When they are high, they have their lawyers and they don’t pay them. This is not enough to discourage the destruction of forests.

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5. What kind of wildfires would become criminal offenses?

Those that occur in native forests. And it will be something to discuss in Congress if only intentional ones are contemplated or also those that occur due to negligence, such as barbecues or poorly put out bonfires, by burning pastures or forest residues.

The popular consultation is open until October 10 in voteforbosques.org.

FM J.L.