A change in the governmental policy regarding land occupation in the Amazon region followed by the enforcement of existing legislation have considerable decreased burning acitvity in the amazon forest.
Last year, the Brazilian government decided that no further fiscal incentives or official loans would be granted for agriculture or pasture projects in the Amazon region. This policy change was a fundamental step for decreasing the rate of forest devastation and, consequently, forest and slash burning.
The other important action toward the reduction of slash burning in that region was law enforcement. In August 1988 the Brazilian government enacted a law establishing that no slash or other controlled burning in the country would be allowed unless a permit from an official agency was issued. Based on that law, the IBAMA (Brazilian Agency for Forestry and Environment Affairs), in 1989, launched a large-scale operation in the region, named PEAL (Emergency Program for the Amazon), in order to enforce the legislation. Several crews using helicopters, boats and cars were sent to the Amazon region in order to check the burning activities. If the landowners who were caught burning did not have a permit, they were fined and/or prosecuted.
These two actions, change in the land occupation policy and law enforcement were decisive for reducing the use of fire in the amazon forest in the last two years.
It is hoped that the law enforcement be extended to the whole country, in order to also reduce the number of wildfires in other vegetation types, like the “cerrado”, the broadleaf forests of the coastal mountains and the forestry plantations. Since over one third of the wildfires in Brazil are caused by misuse of fire in debris burning activities, enforcement of the 1988 enacted legislation will certainly help to prevent fire and reduce the damage they have caused to different ecosystems.
Ronaldo Viana Soares
Forest Fire Prvention and Suppression National Commission Federal University of Paraná Curso de Engenharia Florestal Rua Bom Jesus, 650 BR-80.030 Curitiba-Paraná