State Court vetoes the most considerable environmental setback in the history of Rondônia

25 novembro 2021    
Resex Jaci-Paraná, em Rondônia
© Divulgação
State Court vetoes the most considerable environmental setback in the history of Rondônia.

Last Monday (22nd), the State Court of Rondônia unanimously overturned the effects of a state law that reduced the Jaci-Paraná Extractive Reserve (Resex) and the Guajará Mirim State Park by 541,000 acres. The intent of the law was to legalize the presence of illegal stockbreeders in these areas, including leading businesspeople, liberal professionals, and civil servants, who control livestock of more than 100,000 cattle in the Jaci-Paraná Resex.

The law, published in May, rewarded deforesters and opened up the possibility of regularizing illegally occupied lands based on violent and armed actions. Deforestation and livestock breeding are the main drivers to turn these areas (as many other regions in the Amazon) into carbon emitters, which aggravates climate change.

In its decision, the State Court has determined that the Public Authority must defend and conserve the environment and it is obliged to establish and adequately manage protected areas, instead of legalizing illegal and devastating occupations inside those areas.

Another highlighted point is that the downsizing of protected areas could not have happened without environmental compensation, in-depth technical studies and free, prior, and informed consultation with the affected populations (particularly indigenous peoples, along the lines of ILO's Convention 169).

Now, it will be up to the State government to guarantee the protection of the Guajará Mirim State Park and remove the Resex’s invaders, as well as planning and implementing the restoration of the degraded areas.

Last year, Resex Jaci-Paraná was the third most deforested protected area in the country, with more than 38 square miles of forest destroyed.

The Court's decision restores the protection of the areas. "The Court enforced the fundamental rights registered in the Federal Constitution and the Constitution of the state of Rondônia. It is a paradigmatic decision that will influence other courts and other cases. Human rights and the Rule of Law have prevailed against the attempt to legalize crime and violence", says Rafael Giovanelli, Public Policies expert at WWF-Brazil.

The restoration of illegally degraded areas is technically possible and economically and environmentally appealing for the state. As well as capturing carbon and contributing to the mitigation of climate change, recent studies have shown that agroforestry (compatible with Resex category) in the Amazon is more profitable than stockbreeding or even soybean planting.

The lawsuit sets a good precedent and offers jurisprudence in a state that has drastically invested against Protected Areas.

Located in the Brazilian Amazon, the state of Rondônia has promoted a real crusade for the degazettement, downsizing or downgrading of protected areas in its territory, favoring land grabbing and illegal deforestation.

In July, the Legislative Assembly has voted, through PL 104/2021, for the degazettement of the Ilha das Flores State Park and the downsizing of 16,000 acres of the Limoeiro Sustainable Development Reserve. Governor Marcos Rocha sanctioned the congressmen's decision on the 29th of the same month.

The creation of these two areas aimed to offset the downsizings in the Jaci-Paraná Extractive Reserve and the Guajará-Mirim State Park, the object of the case ruled by the State Court.

Rondônia goes contrary to what world leaders and are comitting for, but the State is not alone.

Processes of downsizing, downgrading, and degazettement of Protected Areas (known by the acronym PADDD – Protected Areas Downsizing, Downgrading, and Degazetting) are increasingly frequent in Brazil.

According to data from WWF-Brazil's PADDD Tracker platform, around 90 PADDD events have taken place in the country in recent years, affecting more than 41,000 square miles, an area larger than Portugal.

Last decade, the National Congress and State Assemblies started to intensely discuss several PADDD bills. Generally, discussions lack proper transparency, technical backup, and participation of civil society.

The proposed changes almost entirely reduce the protection status of these areas, threatening biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The favorable decision given by the State Court of Rondônia is undoubtedly a fundamental milestone and sets an important precedent for legally barring similar processes. But all alone, it will not be enough to halt deforestation and human rights violations. 

Resex Jaci-Paraná was created in 1996 through a state decree and is the merger of several rubber plantations occupied since the beginning of the last century. Traditional residents were expelled by the invaders, with reports of violence and coercion.

The downsizing of Resex and Guajará-Mirim State Park would directly impact the Indigenous Lands Uru-eu-wau-wau, Karipuna, Igarapé Lage, Igarapé Ribeirão, Karitiana, as well as the peoples living in voluntary isolation in the region.

Recent data disclosed by INPE (National Institute for Space Research) point out a growing rate of deforestation in Protected Areas within Legal Amazon, which leaped from 424 square miles in 2019 to 594 square miles in 2021. These are clearly the highest indices in the series measured by the Institute since 2008.

The country urgently needs to stop the "environmental stampede" passing through protected areas, especially in the last three years.