Mexico: Why massive tree planting promises come to naught

The federal government launched ProArbol amid much fanfare back in
January 2007. Through this ambitious program, the country would
replant hundreds of millions of trees, reverse environmental
degradation and arrest rampant deforestation. ProArbol also promised
to pull some of the country’s most marginalized communities out of
poverty. But two years on, the program is plagued by corruption, poor
planning and a dismal success rate, according to studies by Greenpeace
México and recent investigations by the newspaper El Universal.

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The group alleges that 90 percent of the more than 289.6 million trees
planted in 2007 have already died. And some 56 percent of the trees
planted under the auspices of ProArbol were actually not trees, but
included species such as cactus, agave and maguey, Greenpeace says.
The environmental group also alleges that species not native to Mexico
have been planted. El Universal – which titled one of its stories,
“Green corruption in Chiapas” – profiled an impoverished village in
the southern state, where local woodcutters said that ProArbol funds
could not be accounted for.

The federal Comptroller, the paper
reported, had launched an investigation into the misappropriation of
funds. Still, while environmental activists, woodcutters’ groups and
opposition politicians offer damning criticism of ProArbol and the
president’s environmental record, others – forestry experts among them
– are calling for patience before passing judgment. They still defend
the program as a sincere attempt to overcome decades of neglect and
mismanagement of the nation’s forests. “It’s a program with good
objectives,” said José María Chávez Anaya, a forestry professor at the
University of Guadalajara. “But we can’t say that something is
successful [or not] when it’s only the first or second year.”

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