The water in the Guimarães Rosa backlands could dry up within 20 years

07 julho 2017

The conservation of the Cerrado is under threat as a result of intense deforestation, forest fires and the inappropriate use of water in the Sertão Veredas Peruaçu Mosaic (MSVP)
The conservation of the Cerrado and its traditional people is under threat as a result of intense deforestation, forest fires and the inappropriate use of water for irrigation in the Sertão Veredas Peruaçu Mosaic (MSVP), a significantly sized area of approximately 1.8 million hectares situated in the north and northwest of the state of Minas Gerais and the southwest of the state of Bahia. This fact was identified during the third edition of the land use mapping process carried out by WWF-Brazil.

According to the study, 37% of the mosaic region is occupied by agribusiness. Another concerning fact is that this territory has demonstrated high rates of deforestation and incidences of forest fires in recent years, with 30,043 hectares undergoing deforestation between 2009 and 2016, which is almost equivalent to an area the size of the city of Belo Horizonte. Of the most seriously affected conservation units in the mosaic, the Pandeiros Environmental Protection Area (APA) – the largest area preserved for sustainable use in the state of Minas Gerais – is in top place with 5,116 hectares of deforested land.

Cássio Bernardino, mapping coordinator and conservation analyst for WWF-Brazil, comments that, “The studies enabled areas where deforestation and forest fires occur more frequently to be identified, allowing prevention and surveillance strategies to be developed. The initiative also allows changes in land use in the region to be monitored and highlights the role of fully protected conservation units in preventing deforestation and fires”.

This information serves as a strong warning for the authorities and civil society, which must take measures to control these factors that are leading to degradation and losses in the biodiversity of this biome, which is considered to be the “Water tank of Brazil”, as its springs are responsible for supplying six of the country’s nine main water basins.

The map in the side bar provides an idea of the size of the deforested area in the MSVP.

Seminar on Land Use and Forest Fires in the Sertão Veredas Peruaçu Mosaic

A presentation on the mapping process took place during a seminar held on June 28 and 29 in the city of Januária in Minas Gerais, which involved participants from the municipal government, environmental authorities, members of the boards for protected areas and conservation units, leaders from indigenous and traditional communities, environmental NGOs, the Department of Public Prosecution and academia.

Another fact that surprised the participants is the risk of the region’s veredas (swampy plains) and rivers drying up within the next 20 years. This information was discussed by the researcher Walter Viana in his doctorate thesis into water resources through the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), which concluded that water consumption is higher than supply, the main cause of this being the installation of artesian wells. He claims that, “As well as high consumption, these wells are intercepting springs, which is undermining the availability of water for important rivers, such as the Peruaçu, the flow rate of which has reduced by 10% since the 80s. If urgent measures are not adopted by the authorities, this region will experience enormous socio-environmental problems,” states Viana.

During the event, over one hundred people argued that it is no longer feasible to continue with the current culture of abundance and waste, as if the Cerrado had an infinite supply of trees to cut, water to pollute and land to mine. An action plan to reduce these risks and turn the mosaic into a benchmark for sustainable development in this territory was put together on the day.

The intelligent and strategic actions discussed included altering production and land use models, investing in agricultural and mining products generated by traditional communities, creating new social technology to provide access to water, publicising the region as a potential destination for community-based ecological tourism and monitoring protected areas. Agribusiness also needs to do its bit and invest in techniques so that best practice can be implemented, including conservation of water and soil, management and recovery of degraded areas and crop-livestock-forest integration. 
If measures are not adopted rivers of the region can dry in up to 20 years
© André Dib/WWF-Brasil
Map of the deforested area in the MSVP
© Divulgação/WWF-Brasil
A presentation on the mapping process took place during a seminar held on June 28 and 29 in the city of Januária in Minas Gerais, with the presence of 100 people
© Letícia Campos/WWF-Brasil
In the period of 2010-2016 30,043 hectares were cleared in the MSVP, an area that is almost equivalent to the size of the Belo Horizonte city
© André Dib/WWF-Brasil