Peru: De­for­esta­tion slow­ing as it beefs up laws, sanc­tions

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

De­for­esta­tion in Peru has slowed since peak­ing at nearly 180,000 hectares (700 square miles) in 2014 when swaths of the Ama­zon were il­le­gally cleared for oil palm plan­ta­tions, the head of the coun­try’s for­est ser­vice said on Fri­day. Fabi­ola Munoz said tougher new laws and en­force­ment, in­clud­ing fines 700 per­cent higher and jail­time for peo­ple who de­stroy pri­mary for­est, are help­ing Peru rein in de­for­esta­tion. “Peo­ple re­ally used to think there would be no con­se­quences,” Munoz told for­eign me­dia. “That’s changed.”

In 2015, Peru lost about 160,000 hectares of for­est cover, and less should be cleared this year, Munoz said. So far in 2016, about 120,000 hectares have been de­stroyed, ac­cord­ing to satel­lite im­agery. “We ex­pect the trend to con­tinue to be down­ward. But that means we have to be more ac­tive, we can’t let our guard down,” Munoz said. Peru con­trols about a tenth of the Ama­zon, a trop­i­cal for­est home to un­ri­valed bio­di­ver­sity and vast stores of car­bon diox­ide that fuel global warm­ing when de­stroyed.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have crit­i­cized Peru for not do­ing enough to keep wood and gold from be­ing torn il­le­gally from its forests for ex­port, and for al­low­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to dole out agri­cul­tural con­ces­sions that in­clude swaths of vir­gin rain­for­est. Munoz said the govern­ment has or­dered oil palm plan­ta­tions in Peru owned by United Ca­cao Lim­ited SEZC to halt ac­tiv­i­ties after find­ing they had il­le­gally cleared pri­mary for­est in pre­vi­ous years. But ef­forts to evict work­ers from the land have been met with threats, Munoz said.

United Ca­cao, head­quar­tered in the Cay­man Is­lands, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. The com­pany has pre­vi­ously de­nied any wrong­do­ing. The dis­pute is now in Peru­vians courts. “We’re still fight­ing that bat­tle,” Munoz said. “We hope the courts un­der­stand the im­por­tance of th­ese em­blem­atic cases ... of send­ing the right mes­sage.” A large In­done­sian palm oil com­pany in­ter­ested in op­er­at­ing in Peru re­cently re­quested a meet­ing with Munoz and other pub­lic of­fi­cials to dis­cuss pos­si­ble in­vest­ments, Munoz said.

The of­fi­cials told the com­pany that the kind of largescale oil palm plan­ta­tions that have contributed to rapid de­for­esta­tion in In­done­sia are not vi­able in Peru. “We do want in­vest­ments, but we don’t want in­vest­ments at any price,” Munoz said. Munoz added that it was un­clear how much a re­cent spate of for­est fires might hurt ef­forts to slow de­for­esta­tion as the Ama­zon suf­fers its dri­est year in nearly two decades. —Reuters

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