Controversial law could legalise land titles and degrade the Amazon
In a bill akin to India’s Forest Rights Act, Brazil is close to approving a controversial law that would grant land titles to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 sq. km. of protected Amazon forest.
According to the bill, a claimant will be granted a title for properties up to 1,500 ha. if it was occupied before December 2004. Though lawmakers and some government officials claim that this is necessary to improve governance in lawless areas, environmentalists fear that this will just be a license to more encroachment and deforestation.
The current version of the bill does include some environmental norms but these are hardly enough say green groups who are asking that a reforestation requirement be added. In the last decade, the Amazon has seen massive forest clearing and land-grabbing by developers who wish to convert forests to cattle pastures. Migrants from other parts of the country or squatters are often paid to occupy the land until it is registered by the developer. Brazil has become the world’s largest exporter of beef – a title synonymous with the clearing of more than 10 million ha. of forest land for cattle ranching. The government is encouraging more expansion in the Amazon where land is cheap and easily available.