Argentina: Please send a letter for forest and indigenous peoples protection in Salta

This region is home to many of Argentina’s surviving indigenous communities who still depend on these ecosystems. Deforestation has already caused an increase in malnutrition, deaths from starvation, overcrowding in urban slums and poverty related diseases. Deforestation and land conversion have also led to severe floods and droughts, consequences of climate change which are becoming increasingly noticeable. This has now been illustrated by disastrous flooding in the town of Tartagal, where lives were lost and many houses have been destroyed
Newspaper Pagina 12, 10-2-2009 (in spanish).

During the last three months of 2007, just before the National Forest Act was approved, a record number of deforestation permits was submitted and approved. The total area for which deforestation permits were applied for in 2007 in Salta, was nearly half a million hectares. Oscar Delgado of the human rights organisation CAPOMA notes that “the provincial government has completely ignored all environmental studies and recommendations made by the competent institutions, when approving the land use planning act based on the National Forest Act in December 2008”. Delgado adds that “the governor, in his statements about the recent floods, has shown that he wants to leave the rural population exposed to these hazards, while condemning us to a future of extreme weather events”.

Furthermore, deforestation permits are extended by three more years, and forest protection in the river basins and on river banks have been considerably reduced. This promotes the expansion of the agricultural frontier, further endangering the biodiversity of the province and with it the already threatened survival of small communities living in the forests, both indigenous and ‘Creole’. The new Land Use Act will allow for the deforestation of a yet unknown number of hectares. Estimates vary between 1,5 to 5 million hectares. This means that the little that is left of the dry forest of Salta’s Chaco plains, will be replaced by GM soy and jatropha. (Jatropha is talked about a lot, but has not yet been authorized in Argentina).

In order to immediately halt deforestations, 18 indigenous communities presented a demand to the Supreme Court of Argentina at the end of last year. The deforestation permits were given out by the Government of Salta headed by Juan Carlos Romero, just before the new National Forest Act was approved in December 2007. They cover no less than 807.000 hectares in four districts of Salta (San Martín, Orán, Rivadavia and Santa Victoria). The Supreme Court unanimously acknowledged the demand on 29 of December and imposed an immediate ban on deforestation in those areas, and set a date for a public consultation meeting on 18 of February 2009. Please write urgently to the judges of the Supreme Court, to demand that whatever action they take, they must take into account the seriousness of the situation regarding the consequences of climate change, the threats to the survival of the rural population and biodiversity, the expansion of the agricultural frontier, and the additonal damage related to GM monocultures such as soy. Please write before the 18th of February.

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