Paraguay Rainforests Disappearing
Recent investigative reports by the New York Times and BBC News have found that the Chaco rainforest region of Paraguay is quickly disappearing, and may be completely deforested within twenty to thirty years.
The Chaco region is a dense lowland rainforest, one of the last regions of South America to be developed outside of the Amazon.
But this is rapidly changing due to a land rush driven by cattle farmers seeking profits from a worldwide rise in beef prices.
The Chaco rainforest region is about the size of Poland, positioned on the northwestern region near the border of Bolivia.
Estimates suggest that at the current rate that huge acreage parcels of the rainforests are being bought and deforested, the Chaco rainforests could be gone by 2035.
Dr. David Attenborough, an acclaimed wildlife expert, called the Chaco region “one of the last great wilderness areas left in the world.”
The clearing process has become quite efficient. First roads are cut into the forests. After the acreages are purchased, they are clear-cut logged. This is followed by burning the remaining biomass with gigantic fires that stifle the atmosphere with carbon. Once the land is stripped bare, the cattle are moved in. The cattle in turn prevent any new forest growth with their grazing.
Foreigners are doing most of the land buying in Paraguay. These include Brazilians, German Menonnites, North Americans and Europeans – mostly all cattle farmers.
Meanwhile, the indigenous peoples of the region – once proud tribes people skilled in rainforest survival – are being forced out of the forest and re-settled into village slums of tin-roofed shacks where they can no longer sustain their own survival without government assistance. The Chaco village of Ijnapui is now surrounded by cattle farms where there once were productive forests full of native species and medicinal plants.
Rising meat prices have spurred the demand for land and increased profits for large cattle farming operations. Many species of exotic animals, birds, insects and medicinal plants are being lost forever, driven to extinction.
The last few tribes will soon be forced out of their forest. And the lush forest will soon be gone, kept bare by a thriving meat industry.
An 46-year old Ayoreo rainforest tribe leader described to a BBC journalist what they were told when they were taken out of the forest: “He told us that in the city where whites lived there was lots of water, food and medicines. He promised many things but they were all lies – in three years my mother died of measles.”
Written by Case Adams.
Friedman-Rudovksy N, Romero S, Ellick AB. Paraguay’s Fading Forest. New York Times Video. 2012. 26 March.
Daniels A. Forest fears as Paraguay’s Chaco region sees land rush. BBC Latin America. 2011. 16 August.