Activists expose illegal deforestation linked to flooding in Argentina

By agency reporter
January 21, 2019

Greenpeace Argentina activists are in the Chaco Forest documenting illegal deforestation contributing to massive flooding across northern Argentina. On 15 January 2019, the activists confronted a bulldozer that was illegally clearing forest in a protected area. Illegal forest destruction  – driven by the rapidly expanding agricultural industry  – is putting local communities and native species at risk across the vulnerable Chaco Forest.

Forest destruction is also contributing to widespread flooding worsened by climate change that has killed at least four people and forced thousands to evacuate.

“The devastating floods that are claiming lives across northern Argentina are no ‘natural’ disaster”, said Amanda Starbuck, campaigns director for Greenpeace Andino, who is in the Chaco Forest this week. “They are made worse by climate change and forest destruction for intensive soy and livestock production. Forests act as a natural sponge, absorbing rainfall. We are here today exposing the deforestation for a simple reason: fewer forests means more flooding.”

In the last 30 years, Argentina has lost eight million hectares of native forest, mostly in the north of the country. Commodities from the soy and livestock plantations taking the forest’s place are primarily exported to Europe and China. The province of Chaco has seen the most deforestation in the last three years, with more than half of the land cleared (54,327 of 103,908 hectares) protected under Argentina’s National Forest Law. 

According to the Argentine National Agricultural Technology Institute, one hectare of the Chaco Forest can absorb 300 millimetres of rainfall per hour. By contrast, one hectare of pastoral land can absorb 100 millimetres, and one hectare of soy plantation just 30 millimetres. Already this month, Chaco has received 473 millimetres of rainfall, a 66-year record.

Greenpeace Andino is calling on the Chaco provincial government and Governor Domingo Peppo to stop the destruction and uphold national laws protecting native forests. Peppo has authorised the clearing of 51,768 hectares of forest – an area nearly three times the size of Buenos Aires    –including in zones protected by the National Forest Law.

* Greenpeace International


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