Paraguayan Megadiverse Forest Threatened by Illicit Crops

May 5, 2024 Hour: 10:57 am

Deforestation and the associated burns for marijuana cultivation have become the main threats to the Mbaracayu Forest Natural Reserve, considered a ‘green lung’ nestled in the eastern region of Paraguay, which has not escaped the expansion of illegal crops.


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This area, under the care of the Moises Bertoni Foundation, is one of the remnants of the Atlantic Forest, a tropical jungle similar to the Amazon shared by Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.

In March, the Mbaracayu Forest was the scene of the presentation by European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, of the “Forest4Life Paraguay” program.

The plan allocates around US$12.8 million to strengthen the protected areas system and support institutions dedicated to environmental conservation in the country.

The first marijuana plantation was discovered in this area in 1997. By 2011, 45 hectares had already been deforested for this activity. From 2012, marijuana plantations multiplied exponentially and reached 1,600 hectares.

However, not all of this extension is currently planted with marijuana, said Moises Bertoni Foundation director Yan Speranza. There are estimated to be around 600 active hectares of marijuana, meaning 0.93 percent of the surface area of this forest, which was declared a natural reserve by the Paraguayan Executive in January 1992.

Currently, 10 percent of the 64,405 hectares covered by this reserve, located in the Canindeyu department bordering Brazil, has been affected either by direct deforestation for the planting of illegal crops or by the impact of fire, Speranza said, explaining that the fire often gets out of control, affecting a significant amount of forest, even if it is not used for illegal plantations.

He denounced the “absence of the State” and security agencies to efficiently combat this scourge, despite more than 50 complaints filed with the authorities since 1997. However, Speranza acknowledged that the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD) has had more involvement in that area.

The text reads, “The First Capital Command is one of Brazil’s largest criminal groups and has extended its dominance throughout the region. In Paraguay, it controls transnational drug trafficking routes by land and air.”

“The State is losing the battle,” he stated, warning that this mega-diverse reserve could lose between 10,000 and 12,000 hectares in a decade.

In 2023, the National Forest Institute (INFONA) published the “Report on forest cover and land use change,” which showed the magnitude of the loss of native forests associated with deforestation for illegal crops.

Between 2020 and 2022, 50,499.7 hectares of native forest were deforested in the eastern region of this South American country. Of that amount, 20 percent degraded due to the presence of illegal plantations in nine protected wild areas. Among them is Mbaracayu, a reserve that accounts for 52.2 percent of forest loss.

What happens in Mbaracayu is also repeated in other departments bordering Brazil, such as Amambay and Concepcion, where the presence of transnational criminal groups expands cannabis cultivation, said SENAD communication director Francisco Ayala.

In border areas, Brazil’s criminal group First Command of the Capital (PCC) owns most of the plantations as part of its strategy to monopolize all the links in the marijuana value chain.

Autor: teleSUR/ JF

Fuente: EFE

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