By Dr. Rolando Núñez
The mountain is alone. It is attacked by public officials, by forest producers, by charcoal makers, the disassemblers, professionals and the State itself continue.
The mountain is alone. The basic scheme is as follows: it is attacked by public officials, mainly through the application of terrible policies. It is attacked by forest producers, through illegal, clandestine, disproportionate and unsustainable exploitation. The charcoal makers play an extraordinary role in their devastating activity; they are one of the main agents of today's predation economy. The dismantlers continue, who play a fundamental role against the forest, with the aim that the land be used for agriculture, mainly for transgenic crops. The professionals of the related sciences continue, who contribute their knowledge to justify the indiscriminate felling of the native forest, giving the appearance of legality to an activity that is characterized by prevailing infractions, illegalities and impunity. Finally, the State contributes to the strengthening and functioning of this perverse scheme, with its deficient, confusing, contradictory policies, fueled by inefficiency, bureaucracy and corruption.
Later, when those who profit and profit by attacking or attacking the forest are discovered, they pretend to be concerned about the environment and the preservation of natural resources. They pretend to be surprised, affected and almost discouraged, until they demand understanding because the future is upon us if we do not continue dismantling. By the way, these repeated attitudes would be ridiculous, if it were not that we are witnessing a tragedy in full swing, which seems to end with the disappearance of the Chaco forest. This is the most significant data of our present, along with poverty, indigence and the exclusion of the great social majorities.
Decree 1341 must be repealed
Last month the governor issued Decree 1341, through which he suspended the granting of clearing permits until the end of land use planning. In reality, it should be understood that the suspension will extend until such an ordinance is made, which in fact has not been initiated.
This legal instrument aims to ensure the subsistence and continuity of the current remnant of our forest, whose great beneficiaries are those who present themselves as forest producers, who on Tuesday, September 5, were invited by the agriculture commission of the Chamber of Deputies to participate in a Extended meeting that was scheduled with the presence of environmentalists. It all started with the showing of a documentary, as precarious as it was biased; Through this film, a single agricultural producer, well known for his strong inclination towards direct sowing and transgenic soybeans, joined the dialogue, with repeated and widely disseminated public positions.
In the enclosure voices directed to demand the repeal of decree 1341 were heard. With different tones it was suggested that the forest producers should continue with their activities, generating - according to them - the greatest number of jobs. The deputies joined the same line, with words or through approving silence or firm and undisguised accompaniment.
Until then, it seemed that the false dilemma was between forest producers and environmentalists, under the intelligent gaze of deputy Guc. However, the question we asked aloud allowed us to appreciate the objectives of the strategy outlined. We asked: why did you want to disassemble? The question was not answered by any of the producers or deputies; is that if the subject was deepened, almost everything was clarified.
Decree 1341 suspended the granting of clearance permits until the completion of the territorial ordering of our province, which provides for the integration of agricultural and forestry activities with social interests and environmental sustainability.
However, land use planning has not started. To begin, it is necessary to have the valuation of natural resources (water, soil and vegetation), followed by the characterization of public infrastructure and human resources. From a scientifically acceptable point of view, none of this is done, so it will be necessary to get to work, with the intervention of a homogeneous interdisciplinary team, to which all the information is provided.
To cite one case, the forest inventory so weighted these days by the government is not such. In the prologue, the technical manager has clearly stated that it is exploratory in nature, with a wide margin of error due to the sampling system that was applied. In truth, the work is an extended survey of the wooded area. The degree of uncertainty of its conclusions is high, so that the results obtained must be taken with great caution. The total area reported as wooded area (4,911,783 ha) in the four strata that were traced, was determined through 120 hectares. Therefore, the sampling error is high and the results obtained have limited scope. Therefore, a real forest inventory must be undertaken, to establish the existing and predominant species, the health of the species and the trees, the distribution, etc. Only then can we say that we have technically inventoried our forest park.
Lies and truths
Decree 1341 suspended the granting of permits to dismount. At no time did it prohibit forest producers from continuing with their activities to extract species or trees, so they continue with their exploitations since the use was not prohibited.
The clearing that was prohibited is the one that leads to its total disappearance, which has nothing to do with the forest exploitation that - we repeat - is in full swing. If we doubt about this, we simply go to any Chaco route and we will see trucks and more trucks loaded with logs, even those that do not respect the cutting diameter.
That is why we did not understand the reasons why the producers insisted on the repeal of the decree. We thought that they should defend it since it ensures the permanence of the forest, of which they are the first and greatest beneficiaries. We did not understand the purposes of the repeal that were so demanded. And it caught our attention because they were proposing the disappearance of the mountain, which we repeat is its main source of resources. It was very difficult for us to understand them, except that from forest producers they had become private owners, fundamentally of lands that were fiscal, to clear them and then use them for transgenic agriculture or for sale in the rural real estate market, with improved prices because the current business is to sell the land without forest. The document after the guided tour of Pampa del Infierno clarified all our doubts; They are going through clearing to expand the agricultural frontier.
Now, agricultural producers
The confusion strategy is now followed by clarification. With the pretext of seeking a balance between sustainable development, private property and the environment, it was sincerely stated that the objective of clearing, that is, of the disappearance of the forest, is the expansion of the agricultural frontier, for which they attack the Chaco legislation as the heaviest and most prohibitive. It is clear that this consideration is not genuine, for two very simple reasons: the first, because our laws are a true sieve, which in the hands of unscrupulous ends up becoming what it is; the second, that the State does not control compliance with the law in any way, thereby passively sponsoring the destruction of the mountain. He is busy making brochures and organizing workshops; meanwhile, the demolition of the forest continues.
It is enough to remember that to control authorized clearings within the framework of the regulation of the agricultural frontier and forest use throughout the Chaco territory, there is only one inspector from the Forest Directorate. Of course, the consequence of the lack of control is clandestine clearing and harvesting, which occurs systematically, using bulldozers, burning the remains, without paying capacity or respecting diameters of the species killed. This is the real picture of the situation, which extends to the ecological reserves, in which it is continually dismantled because they have no surveillance and no conservation activity; they are reserves of paper, created to simulate something being done.
In this framework, the advance of the agricultural frontier does not respect the annual percentage of the remaining forest. Although the owner of the property cannot clear more than 50 percent of the field, the lands change hands through a truchos purchase and sale contract and - in this way - deforestation continues until the future total disappearance of the forest. The curtains are scarce or non-existent. Afforestation and reforestation activities are fantasies, with rare and very isolated exceptions.
It is striking that the expansion of the agricultural frontier is insistently more required in the two departments with the largest fiscal areas (Brown and Güemes) awarded by the Colonization Institute, through the possible and serious irregularities that have been denounced. Could it be that the lands with mountains have little resale value?
The Producers' Document and the Environmental Disaster
Who initially defined themselves as forest producers, this time presented as agricultural producers of the Almirante Brown and General Güemes Departments, mayors, officials and provincial legislators, issued a document with the purpose of repealing Decree 1341. The instrument was presented as the result of the talks and the guided tour that will take place in some parts of the Pampa del Infierno neighborhood, and as a culmination of the talk that will be held on September 12 at the facilities of a road consortium.
In point 1 of the document, the producers expressed their willingness to generate an area of debate. On this issue, it is convenient to remember that when in 2003 it was intended to initiate the debate on law 5285, the necessary echo was not found in the producers or in the political sector that defined this issue. At that time, we already argued that the law would be extremely negative for a sustainable development of production, favoring the indiscriminate advance on the forest due to lack of controls by the State.
In point 2, the producers tried to separate the regulation and expansion of the agricultural frontier from the strategic issue of land, mainly those managed by the Institute of Colonization. They argued that this exceeds the debate on the regulation of forests. However, this approach is what led to the current situation of imbalance and environmental disaster. The ownership and tenure of land, the use of soils, water and vegetation are integrated issues that must be valued together, precisely because they are closely related and make up the ecosystem.
In point 4, they repeated that the Chaco has the most restrictive, prohibitive and limiting legislation on the advancement of the agricultural frontier. However, they did not say that the legislation, with the irregular operation of the Directorate of Forests, has made possible the depredation of the Chaco forest through uncontrolled clearing, with badly granted permits, with traffic of guides, with clandestine logging and all kinds of irregularities . Only now does the Chaco suspend clearing, after Santiago del Estero and Salta have done so, in an extreme situation.
In point 5, the producers reminded us of the legal regulation of the agricultural frontier, the annual percentages that can be authorized per producer, the obligatory nature of reforestation, the prohibition of burning forest products, the intervention of the CES, INTA, etc. . repeating and pondering that the Chaco has the most restrictive legislation not only compared to other provinces, but also to any country in the world. The truth is that the speech is very good, but they stopped saying that the legal system is totally and nullly enforced since nobody enforces the law. If the law had been controlled and applied, Pampa del Infierno would have beautiful and large forests, with curtains that would be appropriate corridors for the native fauna. The same would happen in Concepción del Bermejo, Los Frentones, Río Muerto, and in the different regions of the Chaco.
In point 6 of the document, reference is made to the extreme poverty that exists in the Almirante Brown and General Güemes departments. They reported that both present the worst indicators in terms of child malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, poverty, unsatisfied basic needs, etc. It seems that the producers are suggesting that if we continue dismantling, the worst social, economic, health and educational indicators in the area will disappear. Surprising speculation of this group.
In point 7, an attempt is made to promise growth, development and investments for more than 1,000 million pesos, in a sustained project of between 15 and 20 years, added to a monetary productivity of 400 million annually. If this opinion derives from a serious study on an area that was always very critical, it would be important to make it public. It does not seem credible that the project can be completed in 15 to 20 years. The weather factor disavows this promising offer in advance. It seems that they did not contemplate climatic changes, especially droughts.
In point 8, the producers deny the existence of large estates, stating that the entire land is distributed by (economic) units that guarantee sustainable development in the Brown and Güemes departments. It is difficult not to despise this opinion; However, there are large estates embodied in Rumbo Norte, El Colono, Morixe, MCU and many others that synthesize the absurd and grotesque concentration of land in the hands of few owners. This meant that the vast majority of small producers do not have lands that constitute true agricultural, livestock or forestry economic units, being condemned to poverty because they have very little land that prevents them from carrying out profitable productions. They only face subsistence productions.
In point 9, they highlighted the incorporation of land to profitable activities, exemplifying that Córdoba had its surface covered with mountains by 83 percent at the beginning of the century and that the current remnant is 10 percent. Big mistake, but the inadvisable inclination to distribute bad information, with the consequent distortion of public opinion. They did not take into account that 50 percent of the Cordoba surface is mountainous. If the extent of the forested area were mentioned, the information would be perfectly clarified. And if we add the behavior of the climate, with the average annual average rainfall curves in medium and long periods, and the quality of the soils in which they carry out agricultural activity, it would avoid giving an opinion as they have. So it goes.
In point 10, the producers disqualify the point of view of the environmentalists and reinforce, or perhaps support, the installation and operation of polluting industries. Producers cannot deny the pollution produced by the use of agrochemicals. The consequences are well known and it is clear that they do not improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of the expanded areas.
In point 11, they reaffirm that the advance of the agricultural frontier does not produce any environmental damage; that do not desertify. That clearing will make us grow. The truth is that this opinion falls under its own weight, as we pointed out earlier.
The fragility of soils
Now that it is clear that they want to expand the agricultural frontier, we must say with absolute clarity that the soils that will be trapped are mostly class IV, that they have severe limitations that restrict the choice of plants and require very careful management. The use of these lands for agriculture is limited by the effect of several permanent factors. In general, these soils are suitable to produce crops occasionally, adapting to forage production, with the following rotation: E-C-F or E-C-F-F.
Class IV soil makes up the vast majority of the territory of the Güemes and Brown departments, so that the future expansion of the agricultural border will cause the ecosystem to collapse a few years after it is cleared. Remember that during the summer the hot sun generates average temperatures of 70 degrees at midday; Without the vegetation cover, the organisms that exist there have little or no chance of survival. This is what the 200 agricultural producers of the Brown and Güemes departments who endorsed the document must understand. Also the remaining
Violations of the forestry regime
We have in our possession the extensive and repeated list of violators of the forestry regime. Some producers, who are not few or small, have committed serious violations in terms of clearing and forest use. In some cases, they are true forest criminals, who in serious countries would have been severely punished. Here, they are still alive and well.
In any case, in the framework of the bureaucracy and corruption that prevails in the State, in collusion with some businessmen, fines are not paid or are paid irregularly in installments or are reduced through various administrative maneuvers. These producers should be fined, sometimes even paying the fine, while they continue clearing or illegal harvesting. For this reason, serious countries prefer to put aside sanctioning policies of this type. The offender falls under the full weight of the law, through efficient controls. If they are caught, they are excluded from the producer register and the correct solution is applied. Chaco is at the other end, with the devastating consequences that are now in sight.
On Sunday 10th of this month, the mountain of a field in Lot 20, Paraje Tres Naciones, 20 km away, was ordered to be burned. from Tres Isletas, on the way to Avia Terai. We were able to be at the site on Tuesday 12, evaluating the environmental incident, receiving testimonies and taking images for archiving. At the same time, public officials and producers participated in the guided tour in Pampa del Infierno.
The panorama we found was bleak. The testimonies received reflected the systematic clearing and burning of the native forest and its consequences. This issue was widely disseminated through numerous media in our province. However, it did not merit any pronouncement from the government, in particular from public officials responsible for the conservation of the native forest and a sustainable ecosystem. Much less has the producers been listened to. They kept a conspiratorial silence.
Fort Hope, New Pompeii and the king of bulldozers
At the same time, a few kilometers from Fuerte Esperanza, along Picada 8, on the way to Taco Pozo, a bulldozer was turning the mountain. The "bump" stopped for a while because the machine broke down. The relevant data is that in El Impenetrable the native forest continues to be destroyed with bulldozers. Then follows the burning of the forest remains and the deterioration of the ecosystem. In this region, bulldozers are linked to deputy Jorge Guc.
In the Pompeii area, the issue worsens. In the field that appears in the name of the father of the mayor of Nueva Pompeya, the mountain is burning. Pay 100 pesos per hectare. Going for more; it is known that it will complete a clearing that will total 100 hectares. Meanwhile, the mayor was elected President of the Road Consortium of the area. Quite an achievement, which will allow you to operate hours / road machines at will. The continuity of clearing and forest harvesting is guaranteed, using State machinery and tools. It would be necessary for Mayor González to be appointed inspector of the Forest Directorate, to be a full-time official with various interests. In this way the ruling Alliance acts, especially the most orthodox and retrograde rozismo, in the face of the inertia or complacency of Peronism.
Source: Dr. Rolando Núñez - Nelson Mandela Center - Chaco http://www.centromandelachaco.com.ar