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From Rocha, Uruguay, Citizens Against the Forest Model

From Rocha, Uruguay, Citizens Against the Forest Model

By Citizen Group of Rocha

The indiscriminate plantations in the form of eucalyptus monoculture, cause irreparable damage, at ground level, aquifers, meadows and natural mountains, and on the social fabric of our agricultural culture. Our indigenous forest is protected by law, or it was until the afforestation with eucalyptus.

Given the serious problem posed by indiscriminate plantations in the form of eucalyptus monoculture, the Group of "Rochenses Citizens, for a Responsible Development, Against Indiscriminate Forestry," reports that it is actively working to raise public awareness, for how much, said afforestation causes irreparable damage, at ground level, aquifers, meadows and natural mountains, and on the social fabric of our agricultural culture.

It is known that those soils located between 30º and 60º of latitude are the most suitable to produce food for all humanity, whose demographic increase, together with a greater life expectancy, especially in the first world countries, causes it to be increased year after year the more than 1,000: 000,000 (one billion) people who lack drinking water and food. Uruguay, which is located between 30º and 35º South Latitude, has a terrestrial grassland biome and a productive destination mainly oriented to obtaining food.


If the formation (genesis) of a soil takes thousands of years, it takes much longer to obtain dynamic equilibrium in an ecosystem. It is not by chance that our indigenous forest, our native trees and their associations, serve as shelter without any risk, against the hurricane-force winds that cross our prairies. But, who dares to take refuge in the same situation next to a eucalyptus, which is known to fail its anchoring, or even its stem breaks at any height?

Our indigenous forest is protected by law, or it was until the afforestation with eucalyptus arrived, which leads to it being burned, uprooted and destroyed in every imaginable way.

The social fabric of our campaign, where the word is still a document, formed by owners, tenants, sharecroppers, etc., the small and medium producer settled with his family, the rural wage earner, the cook, the housewife, the laborer to the foreman or manager, all of them are part of the landscape, of our agricultural culture. For this reason, our rural farms have still existed at the cost of personal sacrifice and without obtaining the “profit” that characterizes companies in other sectors of the national economy. For the man "born and raised" in the countryside, this is a way of life and many times when he is displaced from his environment, in a short time, discouragement and disease end their existence, sheltered in the peripheral belts of our populated centers .

Responsible development implies a fundamental role for our primary sector, in an agricultural and livestock country. Its development must come through an appropriate and rational technification, which without destroying its culture and the environment, projects it towards the social end that we all long for.

A model of a forest country such as the one that is being proposed to us, threatens our agricultural culture, evicts the man and his family from the rural environment, and introduces - in fewer numbers - forest workers in terrible conditions of accommodation, food, personal health, etc. .

Today the "ghost" of pulp mills plagues us, given that a history of destruction and environmental pollution opposed to all forms of life, polluting air, water and soil, is the sad reality that has surrounded and surrounds them. That is another issue that, by itself, would lead to opposing the afforestation of eucalyptus monocultures. But it is precisely that exotic species that we want to refer to.

The eucalyptus in our latitudes, grows faster than in countries like Finland, where the cellulose pulp technology with which paper is made has emerged. In eucalyptus there is a relationship that equates the height of the tree's stem with the length of its root, it grows very fast because it has long roots capable of extracting large amounts of water from the soil and from its water tables; This capacity, although it depends on the development of the forest, considering growth and transpiration, can reach 1,000 mm, the annual average rainfall for Uruguay being 1,200 mm.

Our rural producers complain that their semi-rising wells since they were surrounded by forestation, take time to replenish their flow, when not, they dry up irretrievably, not responding to their deepening. This happens in Rocha, it happens in all the places where it is planted on slopes and heads of ravines and streams. In the area of ​​Cerro Alegre, Soriano department, a tanker from the Municipal Government of Mercedes is in charge of bringing water to more than 140 families.

This in itself is serious, as well as painful, and we cannot forget that Uruguay shares with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay the great GUARANÍ AQUIFER, which expands through the basins of the Paraná, Uruguay and Paraguay rivers, occupying 59,000 in our country square kilometers.

The volume of the Guaraní Aquifer is 55,000 cubic kilometers, the potential allows to meet the consumption of 360: 000,000 people at a rate of 300 liters of drinking water per day. There are studies that have determined that with Eucalyptus grandis, with 366 cubic meters per hectare and the property closed, the aquifer recharge was reduced by 41% (Minas Gerais, Brazil), other species also reduced recharge, establishing as a conclusion… .. "All tree species, planted in areas devoid of trees, all reduce the water table."

As if this were not enough, are we Rochenses and Uruguayans willing to lose this underground resource? Are we willing to lose our hot springs and the tourist resource that they represent? ... Today 1,000,000,000 people lack drinking water. Is the Uruguayan State willing to reduce that reserve that is today a world heritage site?… As we see, the problem transcends what is happening in Rocha.

The Director of the MGAP Forestry Directorate recognized in Rocha that eucalyptus trees acidify the soil, lower its PH. Studies carried out over 25 years for our conditions and with prairie soils with PH between 6.5 and 6.8, have shown that decreases occur to values ​​between 3.8 and 4.0. For this reason, are we willing to bring our soils, which have adequate PH for the development of almost any crop, to the situation that remains after afforestation with eucalyptus?… ..

It is also known that there are changes in the cation exchange capacity (C.I.C.) at ground level, where Calcium (Ca ++) is replaced by Aluminum (A1 +++), changing the properties of the soil. 44% of Calcium absorbed by Eucalyptus grandis remains in the biomass of the trunk (stem).

We already know that from our dairy farms and bone-in meat sales, we export the phosphorus from our soils, resulting in a deficiency of this element in them. Will we do the same with the Calcium of our lands?….

The cultivable part of the soil is its upper layer called the A horizon, it is the most fertile horizon, and, when erosion occurs, it is the most damaged.

When planting eucalyptus, erosion is increased, due to the previous furrowing, the massive application of glyphosate that eliminates the vegetal cover, the clearing of the natural forest, as well as the harvesting tasks due to the intense passage of machinery.

As we are observing, our soils are eroded, impoverished by the replacement of Calcium by Aluminum, they are poorly structured, and as a consequence the porosity is affected and with it the dynamics of air and water, the recharge of aquifers is affected, without bring no benefit.

If we have walked under a pine forest, we will be surprised to see so many needles (needle leaves), the same happens under a eucalyptus forest, we see a large amount of plant remains, leaves and bark without decomposing. This does not happen under the indigenous forest, its plant remains are immediately decomposed by a specific microflora and microfauna, which does not happen with the remains of exotic trees.

Eucalyptus plantations cannot be compared or assimilated to the native forest or mount. Our forests have evolved for a long time in our soils and climate, and together with a fauna that has developed diverse ecological interactions with vegetation. All these components: native forest, grassland, soil, climate, fauna, are fundamental for the continuity of regional ecological processes and for achieving sustainable productive human systems. The eucalyptus displaces people from their place, and produces only wood. People obtain food, fodder, medicines, vegetable fibers, firewood, fruits, fungi and other products, such as honey, pollen, etc., from the native forest, in addition to the fundamental function of protecting springs and water courses.

You cannot compare the eucalyptus forest with the native forest, this is not technically acceptable, nor professionally ethical, because it is to pretend to say that a monoculture can be similar to the biodiversity of a natural ecosystem.

In the world, afforestation is preceded by deforestation. The tropical forests are destroyed by fire, with all the damage that this causes to the existing flora and fauna. In Uruguay we are more careful, we do this damage to native flora and fauna with herbicides (glyphosate), although we also commit the institutional and legal failure to allow the illegal logging or uprooting of the native forest so that its space is occupied by eucalyptus. Likewise, the local fauna, if it survives all this, must move because the extensive and not very diverse mass of eucalyptus does not provide it with food or the adequate conditions for life.

The monoculture in question, causes various disturbances in our natural ecosystems, gives rise to the appearance and development of pests, which, protected in its thick, affect neighboring productions. The wild boar or "wild pig" that was introduced from Spain, causes destruction in corn fields and all kinds of agricultural crops, as well as, and depending on its high capacity for movement (more than 40 kilometers per day), it can cause havoc on the lambing of flocks and domestic animals in general.

In Rocha, in certain areas, the tick is an endemic problem. What will happen to animals infested by these and other parasites when they spend months within the vast implanted forests without being seen? (and despite the fact that the Law does not allow their breeding in forestations)….

Eucalyptus is said to counteract the greenhouse effect, mainly produced by carbon dioxide. But, it is not said that, if there is carbon sequestration, this is temporary, since in a few years the forest is cut down and by various processes the carbon is released again. The same does not happen with our native forests, which remain stable and retain carbon in the long term.


And even if it were true that the eucalyptus forest retains carbon, it is not ethical, nor logical, nor admissible, that the rural community, native flora and fauna, and third world ecosystems be sacrificed with a pseudo-purpose. environment, such as trying to counteract the greenhouse effect, when the solution must come from the side of reducing carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions, and in any case, by associated actions to conserve natural ecosystems capable of retaining carbon over the long term. term. To consider that afforestation can participate in this process is simply to generate, on the one hand, a double and misleading discourse, and on the other, a double environmental impact: the first is the impact generated by uncontrolled CO2 emissions, mainly by rich countries , and the second is the wide range of impacts generated by forest monoculture -with the false assumption of compensating the first impact- in third world countries.

As the Director of the MGAP Forestry Directorate himself admitted in Rocha, forest plantations employ less, or at most, as much labor as they displace. Large eucalyptus plantations generate direct jobs in the plantation and harvest, after the plantation there is a period of 7 or 8 years in which the occupation drops significantly. At the time of harvest, the employment of labor tended to increase, but in reality, the number of jobs currently tends to decrease as a consequence of the increasing mechanization of this operation.

A specific fact at the local level: in 12,000 hectares located on Route 109 near the city of Rocha, 25 families lived in the countryside in small and medium-sized properties, today that area is almost entirely occupied by eucalyptus, and only two run it. foremen with the occasional contract of a few laborers.

If we compare, according to the 2000 Census (INE), the permanent jobs per thousand hectares, we have the following occupation figures:

Forestation 4.49 people.
Beef cattle 5.84 "
Sheep farming 9.18 "
Rice production 7.75 "
Self-consumption production 262.00 "
Poultry production 211.00 "
Horticultural production 133.00 "
Wine production 165.00 "
Pig production 128.00 "
Dairy 22.00 "
Cult. Cerealeros and ind. 10.00 "

It is then possible to conclude that afforestation produces a net loss of permanent employment.

If we apply this information to the 660,000 hectares planted:

660,000 has. with eucalyptus: 2,962 people employed.
660,000 has. with cattle: 3,854 ""

Conclusion: afforestation has led to the expulsion of workers from rural areas.

The export basket in Uruguay is between 2,000 and 2,500 million dollars per year. Wood exports sold 80% as logs and 20% as lumber, generated between 35 and 45 million dollars per year. Uruguay using 150,000 hectares. under rice cultivation (instead of 660,000 forested hectares), it generates 200 million dollars per year.

MONEY INVESTED IN FORESTATION

Direct grants 69: $ 600,000.
Exonerations 55: 800,000 "
Soft loans 55: 000,000 "
Inv. State in infrastructure 234: 000,000 "
TOTALS U $ S 414: 400,000 (627 dollars per planted ha).

What would have happened if instead of supporting this forestry model, the development of our livestock and the different agricultural crops that the country knows had been supported? ...

Forest companies belong to foreign shareholders, to Public Limited Companies, which concentrate the land in fewer and fewer hands, drain our profits to other countries, and leave our people, the productive system, and our environment, the consequences of a bad policy state.

The Department of Rocha, which in addition to having excellent agricultural (rice) and livestock (sheep and cattle cabins) production, has great potential for sustainable tourism along its entire coast and in its mountains that face the sea, is being seriously harmed by forest monoculture, based on everything previously exposed and demonstrated. This forestry model, by its very nature and conception, is a model that generates high negative impacts on the most diverse levels, particularly in environmental, social and economic matters; but also in Uruguay, we must add to this a manifest lack of control capacity on the part of the State in environmental, social and economic matters, which aggravates the negative impacts that may be generated.

On the other hand, we must emphasize that we have obtained from the Municipal Mayor, the assurance of his support to promote a protected natural area, which can be included in the National System of Protected Natural Areas, and that serves to protect all the natural, productive and cultural values ​​of the region.

We still have to define the support of other public bodies that should intervene: Ministry of Land Management and Environment, Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Tourism, etc.

The Group of "Rochenses Citizens for Responsible Development, Against Indiscriminate Forestry", will continue to fight to preserve our natural resources and defend our culture and our way of life, a legacy that we hope will remain for future generations.

SYNTHESIS

It is understood that the work carried out remains as a fundamental premise:

that this type of monoculture, due to its natural consequences, added to the fact that it is carried out by non-resident foreigners, provokes an unwanted agrarian reform by the vast majority of Uruguayans, since it concentrates the land in foreign hands and changes in a notorious way the country's productive matrix, also changing social, cultural, labor, economic, environmental and sovereignty aspects.

A succinct and forceful statement of what has been stated could be based on the fact that society changes, moving from an agricultural country, with workers who own small and medium-sized companies, to a country at the service of international economic powers, which under the label of Societies Anonymous, almost always unnamed, they have acquired the land.

It changes the agricultural culture, the posture of the man born and raised in the field, loving his land and living on it, where he and his family transmit generationally the attachment to it, the living conditions and the skills for that work. Today we are witnessing a process of extreme commodification of the land, which is losing its underlying cultural value.

It changes the quality and labor supply, degrading the work by displacing the quality labor of the agricultural sector, by zafrales workers dedicated to planting, killing ants and cutting down trees in subhuman conditions at the service of powerful companies that do not even pay taxes in the country. In parallel and due to the increasing advance of technification, the supply of low-quality work is also diminishing rapidly: no longer even crews of workers are hired for the felling process, the machines do almost all the work with an operator in the cabin.

The national economy is also seriously affected according to the vision and the production and development parameters managed in this contribution. It was clearly established that the lands are occupied to yield less in terms of agricultural products (meat, wool, leather, crops, etc.), current and potential services (water, soil, native forest, grassland, biodiversity, landscape and tourism) and direct benefits in money (clearly we refer to the level: family, local and national community, and country). These lands yield less than what they produced in the previously existing situation of productive and environmental diversity. They are also negative economic components of the same model: the damages and losses of economic opportunities for the country generated by granting free zones for cellulose (which will not be taxed to Uruguayans but to citizens of the countries where the investments are located: Spain, Finland , among others), with clear tax losses for products exported and imported from there. This chapter of losses for the Nation also includes the incentives and subsidies already granted to the forestry model, and those that are proposed to be granted by the current government (for example: deepening of benefits and exemptions in the Tax Reform proposal). In the economic accounts, we must also include environmental damage already generated and future damage caused by poor production and environmental practices by companies, all of which constitute costs and losses for the country that have not yet been quantified and disclosed by the State. Finally, we must consider the existence of more indirect but important and real losses, as is already the case with the conflict with Argentina. The cause of the losses caused by tourism in Uruguay is not in the “bridge cuts”, which are actually one of the multiple consequences of the application of the forestry model, but rather, the real cause of these losses is in the wrong application by Uruguay of an anti-national forestry model, which by its very nature is a generator of environmental and social conflicts. The defense of this model also generates costs in resources for the Nation (defense in The Hague, official publicity supporting BOTNIA and ENCE, etc.) The conflict with Argentina is just a sample of the dangerous future consequences –in and outside borders- that will surely be generated by persisting with the application of the forest model.

According to the same analysis, the modification of environmental conditions in large areas of the country is established with equal clarity, and it can be added that the least desired farms have been imported in the first world, installing them in a country, which due to their nature and location geographical area is intended to produce food.

Sovereignty is also affected, not only because a significant percentage of the land is owned by non-resident foreigners in the country, but also because the exploitations undertaken are supported by the governments of origin of the exploiters and sooner rather than later, they will enforce their rights over the investments of their countries, as in the world in other types of activities.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS

It is suggested as a first measure to conclude the forest plan.

That urgent measures be implemented for the recovery and restoration of lands and ecosystems, particularly those of high value for production and those located in the headwaters of the basin and aquifer recharge areas (Implement participatory management of basins foreseen in the Constitutional Reform by the Water); in addition to all those lands with environmental, productive, cultural and tourist values, values ​​of high importance for a true development of the nation that were never taken into account by the propelling technocrats of the forestry model, those who managed a partial, not comprehensive and obsolete soil and natural systems.

Promote the country's agricultural and livestock occupation on the basis of truly sustainable production models in the social, economic and environmental spheres, promoting through policies of exemption and responsible credit for people to settle in the field, preferably with their own farms, where the family nucleus can develop.

Promote a land policy that allows the deconcentration of land tenure, allowing a greater number of producers to access it with the necessary surface to develop sustainable production models.

Take the urgent decision to eliminate Limited Companies and other non-transparent forms in the possession and usufruct of the land.

Promote foreign investment in responsible industry and development processes on a human and sustainable scale. Every sovereign country values ​​as its greatest asset its land, which is where the State is based. The investment must contribute to the development of the inhabitants living in that State. The raw material must be of national origin and if the State does not have the means for the installation of industries, foreign investment can be rationally favored to compensate for this deficit of the State. We are not opponents of foreign investments, on the contrary, we agree with those investments that are responsible and sustainable, and we would place them where they can contribute to the well-being of our citizens and to the country's own sovereignty.

The country needs to generate a participatory national plan for sustainable development, with coherent policies for production, tourism, education and research, which is oriented towards the proper use of its natural resources, the defense of its heritage, the integral development of its population and not to contribute to the improvement of the population of already developed countries.

ORIGIN OF WORK

A group of agricultural producers and other citizens of the department dedicated to various activities and counting on the invaluable technical collaboration of the Agronomist Aesio Píriz and the Bachelor of Biology Ricardo Rodríguez, has been working for several months, managing to generate a popular support base to launch the idea we propose.

We have worked with the local press on a permanent basis and this has contributed significantly to the growth of the movement and the socialization of information. Actions have not been limited to agricultural unions since the group is not only from the agricultural sector, but also from the commercial, cultural, and educational sectors, and is made up of people dedicated to other activities, who have warned of the risk they run the department and the country with the situation. Our group also understands that many of the unions do not respond to the needs of members or non-members but belonging to their sector, an example of which is the great deficit of existing representation.

We especially thank the Senators members of the Livestock Commission for having received us and for carefully studying our approach on an issue that must be resolved promptly, given that, if a soil takes thousands of years to form, to bring it back to its original situation after the eucalyptus plantation, many generations will have to pass and huge amounts of money that the country does not have will have to be invested.

Contact forms:
Engineer Aesio Píriz, Tel: 047-23805; [email protected]
Biologist Ricardo Rodríguez Mazzini, Tel: 0479-7824; [email protected]
Agricultural Producer Pedro De León, Tel: 047-25020
Clever Rojas (NGO ODAS), Tel: 047-28141; [email protected]
Producer Agropecuario Wildemberg Tejera, Tel: 0470-2354

* Citizen group of Rocha (Uruguay) for responsible development, against indiscriminate afforestation - Montevideo, July 6, 2006.
Memorandum to the president of the livestock commission of the Senate of the Republic, Mr. Jorge Saravia.
Document presented to the Senate of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay on July 6, 2006 (version somewhat expanded later), by a group of citizens of the department of Rocha that includes producers and rural residents, and other citizens from various areas of activity of the community.


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