DMC & Incoming Tour Operator to Brazil and all of South America BIT 25 Years


Ecology is one of the major concerns of this site. You cannot talk about Brazil without mention of its ecological richness and its endless variety of fauna and flora. Despite the complex problems that can't be denied, Brazil is proud to be what it is: An immense sanctuary of ecology!

With Rio de Janeiro being chosen as the venue for the 1992 United Nations conference on environmental issues, world attention was focussed on the particular problems in Brazil. However, eight years later, the environmental problems are still a major point of discussion and there is still an incredible amount of work to be done. In the past year there's been a great deal in the news concerning the threats to the beaches of Rio due to the indiscriminate dumping of major pollutants or malfunctioning sanitation systems. However, this is just one of the regions where attempts are being made to combat problems. (See below for other regions). With the new government, alternative ways of sustainable use of the forest, ecotourism, stricter controls on ranchers, miners, and industries, and the granting of land rights to indians are all being timidly introduced. The preservation of the Amazon also depends a great deal on international companies who have in the past actively encouraged development of the region. There's still a long way to go but the environmental movement is beginning to be more widely recognized. All of the major international environmental organizations have a following in Brazil, as well as many smaller local groups dealing with specific problems, and environmentalists are being consulted much more for impact studies of various projects. 

The Amazon

This region, covering approximately 42% of the country, attracts most international media attention. Land clearing, by ranchers and smallholders, as well as mining activities, are leading to the destruction of immense tracts of rainforest. The military government of the 70's attempted to 'tame' the Amazon with an ambitious integration plan aimed at reducing social and population problems in the overcrowded northeastern region. The construction of long roads, cutting deep into the forest, such as the Transamazônica, encouraged many settlers to move into the area. For most would-be settlers the new land failed to provide an adequate standard of living and most returned to the big urban centres of Belém and Manaus. The following decade saw further development programmes in the forest as Brazil's politicians encouraged multinational timber and mining interests to exploit the region. The aim of paying off the international debt with returns from this overseas investment, is sadly far from being met. Today, the Amazon, which produces one fifth of the planet's oxygen, has one fifth of the world's freshwater and is home to one tenth of the globes entire plant and animal species, is in real danger of destruction. Already much of the wildlife is threatened with extinction, yet large-scale construction projects, land-clearing for ranches and open-mine gold operations still continue.

Economic Development of the Amazon

It is highly unlikely that the Amazon is able to support large-scale agriculture, as the topsoil is thin and lacking in many minerals essential for most crops. Small slash and burn techniques, such as those practised by various indian tribes are a sustainable method for supporting small communities when the land is used on a rotated basis. Modern cattle farming techniques, however, give the land no time to recover and subsequently render the land unproductive. Many of the land buyers in Brazil are speculating on the value of mineral deposits known to be under the forest.

Effects of Development

The people most immediately affected by the destruction of the forest are the various indian tribes of the Amazon, whose way of life is gradually being rendered unsustainable. The flooding of areas for dams, gold diggers and the increasing burning of forest by loggers and ranchers, have significantly reduced tribal lands. Diseases, brought in by outsiders, have seriously depleted many tribes as the indians have no resistance to these new viruses. Vast smoke clouds from the uncontrolled burning of the Amazon and parts of the Pantanal often cause local airports to be closed and have an immeasurable impact on the ozone layer.

The Pantanal

The biggest threat to the eco-system of the Pantanal comes from poachers. The poachers are well-organised and well-funded with only a token forest police force to combat the traffic. The prime targets are "jacarés" (cayman), which are easily shot at close range, with each skin selling for about US$ 200, but police have also encountered jaguar and ocelot pelts. Industrial waste from factories in Sao Paulo and Mato Grosso that has been dumped into rivers which drain into the state of Pantanal also pose a threat to the region.