In anticipation of Rio+20, Brazil creates new nature reserves and closes major land-fill
Brazil announced plans to protect an additional 10 000km² of land and pledged not to let economic woes stop it from implementing other measures to protect the environment.
According to the Environment Ministry, the country's total surface area under preservation - including reservations for indigenous people - would increase to 770 000km² under decrees signed by President Dilma Rousseff just days before the start of Rio+20, a United Nations summit on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil accounts for 75% of all protected environmental zones created in the world since 2003, Rousseff said.
The head of state, who recently opposed a partial veto of a controversial law reducing the protection of the Amazon rainforest, also announced that 6 418km² of land was deforested in 2011, down from a peak of 27 000km² in 2004.
More than 80% of the Amazon's original vegetation remains intact and between 2004 and 2011 the rate of deforestation dropped by 78%, Rousseff noted.
Speaking on World Environment Day, she also stressed that economic problems should not serve as a pretext to abandon efforts to safeguard the planet.
The crisis can't be an argument to suspend measures to protect the environment, much as it can't be an argument to suspend policies of social inclusion, Rousseff said.
More than 100 heads of state and tens of thousands of participants from governments, the private sector and NGOs will converge on Rio de Janeiro 20-22 June for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Likewise in advance of the Rio+20 summit the state government of Rio do Janeiro last week announced the closure of one of the world’s largest open-pit landfills, where thousands of people have made a living sorting the debris.
Long a symbol of ill-conceived urban planning and environmental negligence, the Jardim Gramacho dump is being transformed into a vast facility that will harness the greenhouse gases generated by the rotting rubbish and turn them into fuel capable of heating homes and powering cars.
Environmentalists had blamed Gramacho for the high levels of pollution in Rio's once pristine Guanabara Bay, where tons of run-off from the garbage had leaked.
Less clear is what will happen to the more than 1.700 people who worked at the site, scaling hills of fresh, fly- and vulture-covered trash to pluck recyclable plastic, paper and metal from the 9.000 tons of detritus once dumped there daily.