Sunday, May 27, 2012

Confused messages on the Brazilian Amazon.

Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.

On the 10th May (see my Blog ) I reported on a Bill being promoted by the powerful farming lobby through the Brazilian Congress that, effectively, would place large areas  of the Amazonian Rainforest at risk. The Brazilian President, Dilma Rouseff, has the power to veto such bills and such a decision was eagerly awaited on the 25th May, the deadline upon which such action rested.

Now all this must be placed against the background of the Rio Summit +20 which will take place shortly and place, for a short time, Brazil in the world environmental spotlight. One might conclude that such circumstances don't connect easily with taking major decisions about a world renowned area upon which all our interests and concerns rest. Well, it seems President Rouseff has skilfully avoided the potential derision that might otherwise have arisen had she raised no objections to the Bill . The time honoured use of what one might cynically judge to be a delaying factor has attempted to appease all factions and kick the problem into the long grass for a while, most importantly, until after the completion of the World Summit process! This was a major opportunity to be seen as a world leader, taking a decision in favour of an international resource, whose personal stature would have improved dramatically as a result of the undoubted plaudits emanating from the Rio Summit.

Having said all that she did reject twelve (12) articles and introduce thirty two (32)  modifications to text within the Bill although, as yet, the details aren't available. Pretty good you might conclude! Well, perhaps not so good in reality given the changes have all to be placed before Congress again and be voted upon. The President has also to issue decrees on these subjects , but even these are subject to examination by Congress, so the debate goes on. For further details please take a look at the following link (here ).

Whilst this may be uplifting in some respects, there are reasons to be sceptical about the real resolve of the President in terms of conserving the Amazon area. I'm indebted to Guy Kirwan for pointing out the following issues relating to river systems in that area which, for some reason, I'd completely missed seeing previously. Again, more details can be found on this link  (Amazonian dams and reservoirs. ).  The scheme is collectively referred to as the Tapajos Complex with a work programme concentrated on the next five-ten years. Three major dams are proposed on the mainstream Tapajos, with four large dams on the Jamanxim River  and five large dams on the Teles Pires River. Additionally 17 large dams and 63 proposals (yes, read the figures again! ) are proposed for the Juruena River. The intention is to develop the basin into a giant industrial waterway to assist the extraction of agricultural products and to produce hydro-electric power for mining purposes. No analysis of impacts has been carried out on the potential challenges to the indigenous populations present in the area or, indeed, the biodiversity. Strange omissions one might say given the public concerns expressed by the President on other occasions.

However, even further confusing factors emerge in this tangled web of proposals and policies referring to this world renowned area. In January this year the President signed provisions, claimed to be illegal by some, aimed at eliminating over 75,000 hectares from National Parks on five conservation units to make way for two large reservoirs associated with dams on the Tapajos. Necessary strategic planning or convenience politics, but where also does the claimed long held recognition of the Amazon come in?