Uruguay - Brasil


The name of the game is (illegal) logging
ENCE cleared dozens of hectares of native bush


In Uruguay, the Ministry of Agriculture suspended the proceeding filed by the Spanish company ENCE with the Forestry Board due to the company’s unauthorized logging of dozens of hectares of indigenous bush. In Brazil, a federal court convicted the company Veracel Celulose and two government agencies for the logging of thousands of hectares of Atlantic rainforest.


In both cases, the aim of the deforestation actions was the planting of eucalyptuses.


The Spanish company, which is building a mega paper pulp plant in the surrounding area of the Uruguayan locality of Conchillas, near the Plata River, violated an express provision of the national forestry law, by failing to request authorization from the Ministry of Agriculture to proceed with the logging.


Company personnel burnt some 80 hectares of land in the northern Department of Paysandu, in the region bordering the Uruguay River, then cut down part of the native bush, composed primarily of hundred-year-old trees, and later buried the remnants to conceal its actions.


Environmental organizations and town council members of the area denounced these acts months ago, and they claim that the deforestation could have actually affected more than 300 hectares in the Department of Paysandu.


This is a common practice for ENCE, not just in Uruguay, but also in its own country, Spain. The same groups that reported the actions called for a “thorough investigation in the more than 180,000 hectares acquired” by the company in Uruguay, as informed in a press release by the environmental organization Grupo Guayubira.


What happened in Brazil is unprecedented: For the first time ever, a Federal Judge, from the locality of Eunapolis in the state of Bahia, convicted a paper pulp company and two government agencies (the federal agency Brazilian Environmental Institute, IBAMA, and the state agency Environmental Resources Center, CRA) for the logging of 96 thousand hectares of Atlantic rainforest in the state of Bahia over the course of many years.


Veracel, a joint venture between the Swedish-Finnish company Stora Enso and Aracruz Celulose, was sentenced to replant with indigenous vegetation the areas it flooded with eucalyptus trees, in addition to paying a fine of 20 million reais. The IBAMA and the CRA were found guilty of having irregularly granted the authorizations to clear this vast surface area of the “Mata Atlantica,” or Atlantic rainforest.


“Besides causing the total destruction of animal and plant life, Veracel’s actions had severe social and economic consequences: the population was driven out of the rural areas with false promises of thousands of new jobs that would supposedly open up for them,” Father José Koopmans, a member of the social and environmental group Fórum Socioambiental do Extremo Sul, said.


“In the municipalities where single-crop cultivation of eucalyptus has been implanted we are now witnessing the exponential growth of violence and unemployment, accompanied by a deterioration of basic health and education structures,” the priest told the electronic publication Brasil de Fato.


The Forum, formed by various non-governmental organizations, social movements, researchers and university students, called attention to the “surprising benefits” received by Veracel Celulose, along with other companies in the industry, that enabled it to act as it did for so many years.


“These companies are sponsored by the State, who continues to authorize eucalyptus plantations even while it admits it lacks the means to monitor and control a project of such scale, and even knowing that Veracel does not observe most legal regulations,” Ivonete Gonçalves, coordinator of the research institute Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas para o Desenvolvimento do Extremo Sul, said.


According to Brasil de Fato, Veracel contributed over 100 thousand reais to the campaign to elect the current governor of Bahia, Jacques Wagner.


The reports against the company date back to the very moment it was installed in Brazil, in the year 1991, when it was known by the name of Veracruz Forestal and was a subsidiary of the Odebrecht Group. It has not stopped ever since, and it is expected to continue expanding, in view of its plans to build a new paper pulp mill that will require another 70 thousand hectares of eucalyptuses to be planted.


These reports not only pertain to environmental issues, they also concern the company’s violation of its workers’ labor rights. In what is for the time being its only Bahia mill, Veracel employs 400 people, but controls more that 180 outsourced companies. The company is currently facing 800 labor reports filed against it.


The Fórum Socioambiental also holds Veracel responsible for the displacement of hundreds of people who were forced to abandon their homes, and for the depopulation of the areas where it acquires lands. It also highlights that the company has destroyed more jobs than it has generated, and that it has created a great deal less than it promised.


In total, the company holds more than 205 thousand hectares in the southernmost region of Bahia. Its paper pulp mill has a production of approximately one million tons, a little under the volume that the Spanish company ENCE plans to produce in Uruguay.


From Montevideo, Daniel Gatti
August 22, 2008

Photos: ecoahead.com



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