Each day more degraded, the Brazilian cerrado is asking for help. Considered the savannah that shelters the greatest diversity of trees in the world, the biome today suffers from a set of problems that increase in the rhythm of the expansion of agribusiness, cattle raising, mining and fires.
There were, for example, more than 31,000 hot spots registered between January 1st of this year and the end of August, according to monitoring by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). It’s the worst number since 2012.
The cerrado is responsible for the water that reaches my house, your house (…) this increases our responsibility
“Imagine the situation of the communities that are under these fires. They often have their territories invaded, and often as a strategy of dispute for these lands by agribusiness, which tries to enter and advance”, describes Leila Cristina Lemes, member of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) and coordinator of the National Campaign for Defense of the Cerrado.
Know more: Fires are a culture of destruction that extinguishes animals, springs and biomes, says specialist
In this month in which different civil organizations and specialists strengthen the chorus on the importance of the conservation of the biome – the National Day of the Cerrado is celebrated on September 11 – Leila Lemes spoke with Brasil de Fato about the problems surrounding this very piece of land. valued and, at the same, wholesale in the country.
The CPT member also highlighted the relevance of the strategies that have been adopted and those that still need to be included in the booklet for the preservation of the Brazilian cerrado. Check out the full interview below.
The goal is to multiply this idea to other places, building, together, protection networks through the springs
BoF – CPT launched a while ago the “Save a Spring” campaign, with the purpose of recovering five springs located in the cerrado. Explain to us how the campaign has been running. In practical terms, what have you got so far?
The campaign is an initiative of the Cerrado Articulation with the CPT, and the articulation covers the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, Bahia, Mato Grosso, Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais and Rondônia.
So, together, we have this strategy in relation to the cerrado. And the campaign “Save a spring” aims, through an online kit, to raise funds to recover springs in five states: Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Piauí and Maranhão.
Read too: Bem Viver Program: Cerrado Deforestation Judged at the International People’s Tribunal
The objective is also to multiply this idea to other places, building, together, protection networks through the springs. The CPT has been working with spring recovery for a long time, so it is having a formation process with communities, showing the importance of this protection.
So far, we’ve done the first stage of this campaign, which was a moment of awareness, production of materials and dissemination on social networks. Starting in September, we launched campaign donations, the second phase of the campaign. And then, towards the end of October, we will complete the third stage, which is the recovery of springs.
BdF – Where exactly are you going to apply the resources? What are the actions, within the spring recovery process, that they help to finance?
The campaign is so that we can dry the springs, buy the materials to recover them, such as seedlings, to recover and multiply this idea of recovery, knowing that the importance of recovering is the importance of preserving them, so that you can also reach the rivers and taps of our homes with water.
BdF – The cerrado is one of the most relevant biomes in the country and also one of those that suffer most from fires. Those that took place in 2021 are the worst since 2012, according to data from Inpe. We had more than 31,500 hot spots between the first of the year and the end of August. What is the weight of human activity in the scenario of this problem?
I see the issue of fires with an enormous weight of human activity, as through the advance of monocultures, which also use these arson fires to increase crops and cattle raising. We see that, in the middle of the pandemic, the wetland was devastated last year and we see that this year there are already many fires and large areas of the cerrado were burned.
A big challenge is for us to be able to stop these large agri and hydrobusiness projects
Another issue is mining, which uses its strategies to deforest and set fire to everything. Another issue is the urban area: cities are also heavily affected by smoke, which causes respiratory and other diseases.
Read more: Water and life from the Cerrado are highlights in the Bem Viver program
Now, we imagine the situation of the communities that are under these fires. They often have their territories invaded by these fires and often as a strategy of dispute for these lands by agribusiness, which tries to enter and advance.
BdF – The cerrado is also called the cradle of water due to the fact that it concentrates three large aquifers and has a very relevant contribution to the country’s supply. What is the relationship between the preservation of the biome’s vegetation and the maintenance of water levels?
The cerrado depends a lot on 12 factors for the maintenance of hydrographic basins and to guarantee water for a good part of the Brazilian population. Even large population centers need it.
One of these factors is rainwater and the other is the recharge areas of the main aquifers, these located mainly in the plateaus and more devastated and occupied by large agribusiness.
Therefore, the vegetation and soil of the cerrado have important characteristics that provide this accumulation of water, such as porous soils and trees with deep roots. This is why it is considered an inverted forest. Removing this vegetation, the water ends up disappearing, in addition to the residues that form and end up doing all that.
BdF – The country is experiencing a water crisis that has been identified as something of historic proportions. Is this also one of the prices paid for deforestation caused by unbalanced human intervention?
Yes, this unbalanced and predatory intervention has been around for some time and has intensified since the 70s, with the expansion of agricultural frontiers. So, the result of all this is the moment of this international wave, mainly the monoculture export commodities.
Recognizing the cerrado and its peoples as national heritage is essential for the protection of the Brazilian territory.
The cerrado is considered the breadbasket of the world and is also placed as a territory for waters and also for the international land market, which drives financial speculation.
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The cerrado is responsible for the water that arrives at my house, at your house, so the water that comes out of the taps belongs to all Brazilians. It comes from the cerrado. This further increases our responsibility to help take care of it, the trees and also the springs, which are such a precious asset for our lives.
BdF – The cerrado and its transition areas reach an average of 36% of the territory of Brazil. This is no small thing. Looking to the future, what are the main challenges to maintaining this biome with all its richness? Would the expansion of the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, which is being debated in the Senate, be one of the paths?
A big challenge in this matter of keeping the cerrado with its richness is for us to be able to stop these large agro and hydrobusiness projects, with support for monocultures, such as soybeans, cotton and eucalyptus and several others in which fires are used criminals to transform [a área] over vast unproductive kilometers and irrigated crops are still used, which end up drying up rivers and springs.
Another aggravating factor is the use of pesticides, which poison the waters, invade communities that live near these large crops. They need water for their household chores and for drinking too, for their gardens and for their animals.
Also read: Dossier ‘Agro é Fogo’ denounces environmental damage in Brazil
The expansion of the Chapada National Park is an old discussion that, in my view, is a path, a strategy for protecting these areas of conservation units. I think that if it’s a law, it has to be fulfilled. The cerrado dies because it has nothing to protect it like the Amazon has.
So, that’s why this unlimited advance on land, water and its biodiversity. Ensuring this right of access to the protection of these peoples and communities to land and territory is a key factor in achieving justice. Recognizing the cerrado as national heritage and its peoples as heritage is also essential. This protection for the Brazilian territory is essential.
BdF – How can people get involved in your campaign to help save the springs of the cerrado? Where can they get involved and what exactly can they do to participate in this movement?
I ask everyone to join us in this fight to defend the springs and waters. To help, just go to https://benfeitoria.com/salveumanascente and make a donation. The cerrado, the waters resist so many things… So, this message of resistance from this very important biome remains.
Edition: Douglas Matos