About half of this surface has been classified as “protected areas” because of their biodiversity and crucial role in mitigating the effects of global warming.
In 2017, more than 128,000 hectares of forest were destroyed in the North of Argentina, according to Greenpeace's latest report issued on Wednesday, representing an increase compared with 2016.
The environment group found that the northern provinces of Salta, Santiago del Estero, Formosa y Chaco registered 80 percent of the country's deforestation, due to the lack of law enforcement and political will in this region.
Greenpeace's head of Woods Hernan Giardini explained that mass deforestation decreased since the Bill on Woods was promulgated in 2007, but increased in protected areas because the fines contemplated in the bill were “extremely low.”
Sometimes, companies even appeal the sanctions and managed to avoid paying the fine, sometimes they include the fines as an additional cost in a way that keep deforestation bankable.
“They buy a ranch at a very cheap price, deforest the surroundings, pay the fine, and don't reforest,” said Giardiani in an interview with EFE.
Since the 2007 Bill on Woods implemented under the former administration of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, about 2,4 million of hectares have been deforested, including 750,000 of protected areas.
In 2016, Greenpeace Argentina proposed legislation making deforestation illegal, including arson, and not just subject to economic and political sanctions, but also criminal ones.
The spike in deforestation in the region— where land is relatively cheaper— is likely driven by increasing meat consumption in recent years, according to Giardini.
Deforestation goes hand in hand with violent evictions of indigenous campesinos living in these areas, with agribusiness entrepreneurs occasionally hiring armed paramilitary groups to carry out the displacement.
According to Greenpeace, local state officials and agribusiness corporations illegally collaborate to make systematic large-scale deforestation possible by issuing local decrees allowing deforestation on natural reserves protected by federal laws banning tree-harvesting.