Arab Times

Na­tive group pa­trols to ex­pel ‘invading log­gers’

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ALTO RIO GUAMA INDIGE­NOUS TER­RI­TORY, Brazil, Sept 17, (AP): A bit after sun­rise, dozens of Indige­nous Tembé men be­gan pre­par­ing for the im­por­tant day ahead. They danced, chanted and donned match­ing black T-shirts be­fore set­ting off on mo­tor­bikes into Brazil’s Ama­zon for­est.

Self-de­clared “for­est guardians,” their aim was to find and ex­pel il­le­gal log­gers and min­ers within their ter­ri­tory on the eastern edge of Brazil’s Para state. Em­bla­zoned on their T-shirts was their group’s name - Ka’Azar, which in their lan­guage means “Own­ers of the For­est.”

“For a long time, since I was born, I heard my fa­ther and the el­ders talk about the need to fight the log­gers in our lands,” said Ron­aldo Tembé, a 21-year-old mem­ber of the 40-man pa­trol. “We are try­ing to com­bat de­for­esta­tion within our re­serve, which is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pre­car­i­ous.”

The Tembé be­gan these pa­trols last year as in­creas­ing en­croach­ment on their ter­ri­tory and lax en­force­ment dur­ing Pres­i­dent Jair Bol­sonaro’s ad­min­is­tra­tion prompted them to take mat­ters into their own hands. Put on hold dur­ing the pan­demic, the pa­trols re­sumed last week.

“We cre­ated the guardians, so these young men can in­spect the land, to show where the in­va­sions and il­le­gal log­gers are,” said vil­lage leader Sér­gio Tembé, adding that Bol­sonaro’s staunch sup­port for Ama­zon devel­op­ment has em­bold­ened the il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Ac­com­pa­nied by an As­so­ci­ated Press pho­tog­ra­pher, the men rode for four hours be­fore they heard bark­ing dogs in the dis­tance. Leav­ing their mo­tor­bikes, they walked along a trail un­til they found a wiry man in shorts and san­dals near a huge felled tree.

Al­temir Fre­itas Mota, 52, claimed the de­struc­tion wasn’t his do­ing, and that he was merely gath­er­ing vines to make brooms and chairs. But he con­ceded that he had seen the log­gers and, sur­rounded by the Tembé men bran­dish­ing ri­fles and ma­chetes, agreed to guide them to their camp.


De­for­esta­tion in Brazil’s Ama­zon re­gion may have reached a 14-year high in the 12 months through July, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary data published last month by the coun­try’s space agency. It cal­cu­lated the Brazil­ian Ama­zon lost 9,216 square kilo­me­ters (3,558 square miles) of veg­e­ta­tion in that pe­riod.

Bol­sonaro has re­peat­edly said he be­lieves it is folly for rel­a­tively small Indige­nous pop­u­la­tions to con­trol vast swaths of rain for­est. The Tembé peo­ple’s Alto Rio Guama ter­ri­tory spans some 2,800 square kilo­me­ters (1,080 square miles), nearly the size of Rhode Is­land, and has about 1,700 res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to the ad­vo­cacy group So­cio-En­vi­ron­men­tal In­sti­tute. The Tembé are the western branch of the Tenete­hara Indige­nous group.

“No one is against giv­ing due pro­tec­tion and land to our In­dian broth­ers, but in the way it was done, and to­day it re­flects 14% of na­tional ter­ri­tory de­mar­cated as Indige­nous land, it is rather abu­sive,” Bol­sonaro said ear­lier this year.

He has also blasted Brazil’s en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tor, IBAMA, for seiz­ing law­break­ers’ log­ging equip­ment or set­ting it afire, which is per­mit­ted un­der law. His ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­cently sub­mit­ted 2021 bud­get pro­posal for IBAMA’s en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trol and mon­i­tor­ing is down 25% from 2018, the fi­nal year of the prior ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Sér­gio Tembé, the vil­lage leader, told the AP that Bol­sonaro’s stance has mo­ti­vated criminals in the re­gion to ex­ploit their lands. Then he of­fered a plea to Bol­sonaro.

“Our land is in­vaded, Pres­i­dent, be­cause you gave in­cen­tives for the log­gers, the land grab­bers to in­vade,” he said. “So stop it, Pres­i­dent. You need to have re­spect for us.”

Ini­tially, the Tembé de­stroyed the tres­passers’ trac­tors and other heavy equip­ment too, but do­ing so brought death threats and at­tempted am­bushes. Last Septem­ber, pub­lic pros­e­cu­tors is­sued an of­fi­cial re­quest for the Fed­eral Po­lice to con­duct an ur­gent op­er­a­tion to pro­tect the Tembé from log­gers’ at­tacks. They also rec­om­mended that the Tembé pa­trols limit their ac­tiv­i­ties to mon­i­tor­ing and record­ing in­va­sions, then alert­ing pros­e­cu­tors, who can work to force ac­tion from fed­eral au­thor­i­ties.

But even pa­trolling can be dan­ger­ous for the Tembé in a place where pub­lic over­sight is scant, and where killing is an all-too-com­mon re­course for law­break­ers. Sev­eral of the Gua­ja­jara Indige­nous peo­ple, whose for­est guardians de­fend their own land in neigh­bor­ing Maran­hao state, have been killed in the past year.

Mota, the man who said he’d seen the log­gers and knew where their camp was, told the Tembé pa­trol that those at the camp were un­armed. Still, the Tembé kept their ri­fles at the ready as they walked an hour through the for­est. They paused to dis­cuss strat­egy as they drew near, and some painted their faces red with oil from the seeds of achiote pods.

They came upon a clear­ing where two large tarps were propped up with branches over a makeshift kitchen and sleep­ing area. There they found six log­gers, a fe­male cook and her son. Mota took a seat be­side them.

The Tembé men ex­plained to the log­gers how felling trees harms both the en­vi­ron­ment and their peo­ple, while us­ing their cell­phones to record the ex­change. Then they de­manded the log­gers leave their ter­ri­tory.

“We just ask you to leave from what is ours, and we stay in peace, no trou­ble with no one,” one of the Tembé men told the log­ging camp’s leader, Zeca Pilão, who stood shirt­less with his arms crossed.

The Tembé will re­turn and give one fur­ther warn­ing, said Sér­gio Tembé. If the log­gers fail to com­ply, they will burn the log­gers’ equip­ment and camp, and hold the gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­ble, he added.

“Up un­til now, we don’t have sup­port and we will never stop pro­tect­ing our for­est,” said Ron­aldo Tembé. “We will never stop do­ing what’s right, never stop al­low­ing our for­est to breathe.”


BER­LIN: Satel­lite images show that smoke from wild­fires in the western United States has reached as far as Europe, sci­en­tists said Wed­nes­day.

Data col­lected by the Euro­pean Union’s Coper­ni­cus At­mos­phere Mon­i­tor­ing Ser­vice found smoke from the fires had trav­eled 8,000 kilo­me­ters (al­most 5,000 miles) through the at­mos­phere to Bri­tain and other parts of north­ern Europe.

The Euro­pean Cen­tre for Medium-Range Weather Fore­casts, which op­er­ates some of the Coper­ni­cus satel­lite mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems, said the fires in Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton state have emit­ted an es­ti­mated 30.3 mil­lion met­ric tonnes (33.4 mil­lion tons) of car­bon.

“The scale and mag­ni­tude of these fires are at a level much higher than in any of the 18 years that our mon­i­tor­ing data cov­ers, since 2003,” Mark Par­ring­ton, a se­nior sci­en­tist and wild­fire ex­pert at Coper­ni­cus At­mos­phere Mon­i­tor­ing Ser­vice, said.

Par­ring­ton said the smoke thick­ness from the fires, known as aerosol op­ti­cal depth or AOD, was im­mense, ac­cord­ing to satel­lite mea­sure­ments.

“We have seen that AOD lev­els have reached very high val­ues of seven or above, which has been con­firmed by in­de­pen­dent ground-based mea­sure­ment,” he said. “To put this into per­spec­tive, an AOD of one would al­ready in­di­cate a lot of aerosols in the at­mos­phere.”

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