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Nine million hectares cleared in the Chaco Seco. Deforestation prevents trees from absorbing water. The result is the increase of water flows in the water tables and surface.
Flooding, deaths, millionaire losses, requests for works, images of animals and crops under water, laments and the agribusiness entrepreneurs who demand subsidies. They blame "extraordinary rains" and make human action invisible: in the Argentine Chaco region almost nine million hectares have been cleared since 1976, equivalent to 440 times the surface of the City of Buenos Aires. Sixty-one percent occurred from the late 1990s, when the transgenic model began to advance. The Government cut 95 percent of the budget for forest protection and President Macri proposed "getting used to" the floods.
Misiones, Corrientes and Entre Ríos suffered floods in 2015. Santa Fe, Córdoba and Buenos Aires in 2016. La Pampa, Córdoba, Tucumán, Formosa and Salta in 2017. In 2018, Salta and Buenos Aires again. Argentina suffers more and more floods and the business and political sector blame the climate and the lack of hydraulic works. "We sow soybeans even in the pots and that is affecting us," said the mayor of Salto, Ricardo Alessandro, in 2017 when his party was under water.
The Argentine Chaco Agroforestry Network (Redaf) has systematized statistical data since 1976 on the Chaco Seco region (areas of Salta, Formosa, Santiago del Estero, Chaco, Córdoba, Santa Fe, Catamarca, Tucumán, San Luis, San Juan, Jujuy and La Rioja). Based on satellite images together with the INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology) and the Laboratory for Regional Analysis and Remote Sensing (LART) of the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA, they determined that from 1976 to 2018 8.9 million hectares were cleared. Since the enactment of the Forest Law (2007), 2.4 million hectares of that region have been razed.
“Starting in the 1990s, there was an accelerated process of deforestation, especially concentrated in the Chaco region. Between 1996 and 2006, almost three million hectares were deforested in the Dry Chaco, mainly destined for the expansion of export crops, especially soybeans, "explained Redaf in its report" 10 years after the Forests ”.
The flooding in recent weeks affected Chaco, Corrientes, Santiago del Estero and Santa Fe more severely. From 1976 to 2017, 1,420,938 hectares were destroyed in Chaco, 3,221,388 in Santiago del Estero and 142,233 in Santa Fe, details the Redaf report. In 2017, the then deputy director of Natural Resources of Santa Fe, Carlos Chiarulli, acknowledged that the province lost 82 percent of its forests in just eighty years (it has 1.2 million hectares left). The main reason was the advance of the agricultural frontier.
Emilio Spataro, from the Friends of the Earth Argentina organization (ATA), denounced that Corrientes lost 75 percent (2.3 million hectares) of its original forest area. "In the 15 years that go from the 90s to the first decade of this century, 25 percent of the total was destroyed," he said. And he clarified that it was the same period in which the agribusiness of forest monoculture (pine and eucalyptus), rice and livestock (displaced from its traditional zone by soybeans) advanced.
The Nelson Mandela Center is a reference space in the study of deforestation in Chaco. Rolando Nuñez, its coordinator, has no doubts: "We have lost the environmental balance as a result of the advance of human activities, fundamentally the advance of the transgenic agricultural frontier and livestock," said Nuñez. He warned that officials use climate change (which is a real factor) to untie responsibilities and assured that there will be more and more extreme phenomena (droughts and floods).
The report “Desmontes S.A. The corporate and governmental responsibility in the violation of the Forest Law ”(of Greenpeace) denounces that Chaco is the province where more forests were destroyed during the last three years (103,908 hectares). The organization warned that the provincial government intends to clear three million hectares of the Impenetrable Chaco.
"The tree is a water extractor pump," explained Ernesto Viglizzo, from INTA La Pampa. With more than thirty years of work in the institution, he highlighted the consequences of eliminating the mountain. His testimony appears in the scientific documentary headed by researcher Esteban Jobbágy (“New River”), which reveals the appearance of new water courses in San Luis.
The documentary confirms the link between the rise of water tables, water excesses and the agricultural model. They detailed that pastures transpire (“evaporate”) 1075 millimeters per year, while crops such as soybeans and corn only transpire 680 millimeters. The difference in water remains on the ground, raises the water table and facilitates flooding.
President Mauricio Macri said on January 17: "We will have to get used to the fact that this (the floods) is going to happen in different parts of the country." On January 25, the secretary of Agroindustry and former president of the Rural Society, Luis Miguel Etchevehere signed the declaration of the “state of emergency and / or disaster” for Santa Fe, Corrientes, Chaco and Santiago del Estero due to “the meteorological phenomena of intense rains and excess water this month ”. The word "clearing" did not appear in the press release.
- By Darío Aranda. Article published on January 28, 2019 in the newspaper Página12.
No budget for forests
The Forest Law establishes that the national government must allocate 0.3 percent of the budget each year to the "National Fund for the Enrichment and Conservation of Native Forests." The Redaf denounced that in 2010 only 36.5 percent of what was assigned was allocated. In 2012 17.8 percent. In 2015, only 6.1 of the mandatory budget was allocated to care for the native forest. In 2016, already during the government of Mauricio Macri, only 5.2 of the corresponding budget was allocated. For 2019, according to information from the NGO Vida Silvestre, only 4.75 percent of what the Law establishes was allocated. Another way of looking at it: the national government cut 95 percent of the funds for forest care.