Over last five years, the government has begun to change focus in regards to its policies towards the Amazon. Where, it has designated a number of different areas as protected national parks. Currently, there are nearly 201 million hectares that are protected from development. Then, in 2006, a law was passed creating an agency to manage the forests and protect them. With the law stating, that all protected forests should remain public land and that these areas should maintain their forest cover. This is significant because it would reduce the total amounts of destruction that was occurring. A good example of this can be seen by looking no further than the State Acre. Where, deforestation decreased by over 50% since 1998. The main reason for the drop was: the enforcement of the new laws by Brazilian official and increased funding for social development in the area. According to the state's Governor, Arnobio Marques these programs have caused the state's illiteracy rate to decrease dramatically from: 25% to 14%. While at the same time, unemployment has declined from: 8% to 4%. (Yu)
Yet, when you look at the overall effects this policy as a whole, it is clear that it is a good first start. Where, the government is accounting for the impact of its policies on the forest and the local population. A good example of this would be the proposed redevelopment of BR 319. This is a highway that was completed in 1973 that connect Manaus with the rest of Brazil. After, its completion the project was abandoned, because the scope was to large for the region to support at the time. However, since there has been rapid expansion taking place, many are calling to redevelop this highway. In the not to distant past, the government wound engage in such actions. Yet, with the change in policy they now are considering using a railroad in place of the highway. According to Mariano Cenamo of the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas, "A railroad would fulfill the same functions as the highway, and would be preferable for the transport of products from the industrial park in Manaus, if it were connected to an integrated rail network to reach the great markets in south-central Brazil." (Osavo) This is significant, because in the past roads and highways were built, with very little disregard for the environment. Now, Brazilian law requires that an environmental impact study is conducted before engaging in such projects. As a result, this signifies how Brazil is attempting to begin in some form of sustainable development.
Beneath the headlines and some of the initiatives being taken, one of the biggest threats to maintaining any kind of sustainable economic development is consistently enforcing the law. This means that regardless of what political or economic issues are taking place, public officials must make it a priority to protect the rainforest. Yet, this is not occurring; instead the various public officials are looking the other way for political or economic reasons. A good example of this; can be seen by looking no further than the 228% increase in destruction of the rainforest in 2008 compared with 2007. The reason why such a jump took place is: many of the local politicians were taking a more lax approach to enforcing the law (due to the fact that it was an election year). According to the Brazilian Environmental Minister Carlos Minc, Incra (a land agency of the government) was he biggest culprit for deforestation from 2005 to 2008 (as Incra destroyed 544 thousand acres) during that time. ("Amazon Deforestation Rate has Tripled") What this shows, is how the Brazilian government is waning from their policy of protecting the Amazon. Where, various business / political interests are causing these policies to become ineffective.
Sustainable Development of the Amazon
To protect and develop the Amazon requires that the Brazilian government go beyond the current laws that are in place. Instead, a focus must be placed on developing industries that will support the forest. Those that have a tendency to cause deforestation should be limited to particular areas. For example, the Amazon is currently responsible for 50% of the timber that Brazil produces. (Ramos) One of the reasons why deforestation has occurred is by allowing loggers to go to any area and cut out large potions of the forest. The protections of large amounts of the jungle are a good first start. Yet, the financial incentive that is driving the destruction of the forest must be taken into account. This means that the logging industry must reduce the overall amounts of resources that it is taking out of the Amazon. One way to accomplish this objective would be: to create areas of the Amazon that are designated for the timber industry. Once they clear a particular area of the forest, they must be required to replant them. Then, the government must set a cap on the total amounts of forest that can be destroyed by the timber industry each year. To enforce the different provisions, the government, could require that anyone who is using the forest for logging to have a permit. As a part of the fees, would be costs to support reforestation and have an enforcement agency prevent any kind of illegal logging. At the same time, the government must encourage the logging industry to go to areas outside of the Amazon. In this particular case, the government could designate larger portions of land that can be used by the timber industry. Like with the Amazon, a policy would require the loggers to reforest those areas that they destroy and all activities will be controlled by permit. This would prevent the runaway activities of illegal logging that occur in the Amazon, by forcing the industry to seek other resources outside of the region. (Sachs 259 -- 273)
Next, the government must focus on developing an effective way for infrastructure to reach various trading hubs in the region, without destroying the jungle. One way to do this is to expand the railway and waterway traffic that can be utilized. This will reduce the overall amounts of destruction of the forest from building large amounts of roads. Then, you are ensuring that the largest amounts of freight are quickly transported in out of the region by rail. When you are transporting various good by rail instate of truck, larger amounts goods can be transported and the environmental impact is less. (Ramos)
Third, the government must focus on preventing agribusiness from expanding into rural parts of the jungle. In this particular situation, soy beans have become a crop that is in demand. This means that larger amounts of forest are destroyed. The government needs to place severe restrictions as to how and when these different farmers can expand into the jungle. This would mean, showing them how to grow the different crops most effectively on their land. Like with the logging industry, this can be regulated by requiring all farmers and cattle ranchers to have a permit. The fees could be used to fund reforestation efforts and enforce the different provisions of the law. (Sachs 259 -- 273)
Once this has taken place, Brazil must focus on ensuring that the policy is sustainable. One way to accomplish this objective is to create an international commission that will independently monitor the development of the Amazon. For example, the various climate agencies at the United Nations could prove to be an independent way of monitoring what is happening in the region. This significant, because when the international community is watching it will be more difficult for local politicians to look the other way. As the mounting pressure to protect the forest will outweigh economic interests.
Next, the government must focus on developing other industries that are outside the scope of the traditional industries such as: soy beans, corn and sugar. Instead, they can develop those industries that would support and thrive off of the natural resources of the Amazon. For example, the government could work on developing the palm oil, fruit, medical products and natural herb industries. Over the course of time, these industries would support the viability of the forest, from both an economic and environmental viewpoint. Once this occurs, it means that this industry could dominate all of the others. Especially, if the profit motive is greater and there are government incentives such as: grants or tax breaks. (Sachs 259 -- 273)
Then, there must be a focus on developing those industries that are environmentally friendly and improving the overall levels of education in the region. These two work together, because those industries that have less of an environmental impact require higher amounts of education. When you are increasing the overall levels of education, you are making the workforce more productive. This means, that the government can attract those industries that are technology related (which have less of an environmental footprint). While at the same time, there must be a push…