Fulfilling a campaign promise, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Friday officially recognized approximately 207,199 hectares (800 square miles) of six ancestral territories, the two largest of which are in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest and a key carbon absorption site that helps moderate climate change, it was reported.
The land remains under the federal government's jurisdiction, but the designation gives indigenous peoples the right to use it according to their traditions. Mining activities are prohibited, and commercial agriculture and logging require specific authorizations, it was explained. In addition, non-indigenous people are prohibited from carrying out any economic activity on the recognized lands. The indigenous movement welcomed Lula's move, although Lula had pledged to create 14 new territories in the short term.
Today we demarcated six indigenous territories, an important step, Lula said on social networks. Do not stop organizing and demanding. The government exists to serve the interests of the people.
At an indigenous encampment in the capital, Brasilia, Lula addressed a crowd that also neglected workers from the federal government's indigenous affairs agency, who raised slogans and held banners during the ceremony.
We are going to legalize indigenous lands. It's a process that takes some time because it has to pass through many hands, Lula said. I don't want any indigenous territory to be left without demarcation during my government. That is the commitment I made to you.
The Brazilian leader said the struggle for the demarcation of indigenous peoples is a struggle for respect, rights, and protection of our nature and our country. Let's go ahead.
The largest new area is in the state of Amazonas. The Uneiuxi Indigenous Territory of the Nadöb people has been expanded by 37%, to 554,000 hectares (2,100 square miles) of primary rainforest. It is in a remote area: from the main village it takes four days to reach the nearest town by motor boat, the region's most common mode of transport.
The demarcation will make the Nadöb people feel safe and secure within our territory. That is where we live, fish, hunt and gather fruits. We want to stay there, like our ancestors, Chief Eduardo Castelo, 45, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. We don't want the impact of whites on our territory.
The leftist president pledged at the UN climate change conference COP27 last year to protect the Amazon rainforest and strengthen inspection bodies and monitoring systems and clamp down on environmental crimes. He has said demarcating lands to indigenous peoples is necessary for the country to reach its 2030 zero deforestation goals in the Amazon.
Lula's move also seeks to undo the damage caused during the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who had vowed not to cede one more centimeter of land to the Indigenous people. According to the scientific journal Nature, deforestation under Bolsonaro grew by 129%. The Amazon rainforest is a crucial buffer against climate change, as the vast rainforests absorb a significant amount of carbon dioxide each year.