A directive signed last week by Brazil’s Solicitor-General could put indigenous land rights at risk, according to human rights group Survival International.
The directive “opens up all indigenous areas to mineral, dams, roads, military bases and other developments of ‘national interest’ without the need to consult with or address concerns of indigenous peoples,” according to an expert familiar with the directive who asked to remain anonymous. It also restricts demarcation of new indigenous territories.
Survival International called the move “disastrous” citing the plight of the Guarani tribe, some members of which are waiting “in roadside camps or overcrowded reserves” for their ancestral lands to be mapped and allocated.
This directive puts our survival in extreme danger. We are being ignored as human beings, as the first occupants of this land. It is the start of the extermination of indigenous people.
~ Guarani spokesman (as quoted by Survival International)
According to the indigenous lands expert reached by mongabay.com, the directive was originally intended to overcome issues in implementing the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous area in the northern Brazilian state of Roraima, but the powerful ruralista bloc in Congress pushed to apply the directive to all indigenous areas. The ruralistas also successfully pushed for a weakening of the country’s Forest Code, which mandates how much forest landowners are required to protect, earlier this year. (The final version of the Forest Code is pending).
However, outcry over the directive led Brazil’s Public Prosecutors’ Office to suspend the measure is pending a court ruling on the issue. Survival International and several Brazilian indigenous organizations have called for the directive to be revoked entirely.
The directive was passed only a month after an association of more than 1,200 tropical scientists convening at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation sounded the alarm on the potential development.
Indigenous territories cover roughly 22 percent of the legal Brazilian Amazon. Areas managed by indigenous groups have lower deforestation rates than unprotected forests.
Adapted from Brazil decree opens tribal lands to mining, dams in ‘national interest’ by Rhett Butler, mongabay.com.
Mongabay.com provides news, information, and analysis on environmental issues, with a special focus on tropical rainforests. The web site features more than 70,000 photos and has a section about forests for children available in nearly 40 languages.
~ Editor: Lynn Hasselberger
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