Brazil senate passes controversial forestry bill news
07 December 2011

The senate in Brazil has passed a controversial forestry bill supported by the powerful growers and ranchers. The bill was opposed by activists who said it would speed up illegal deforestation in the Amazon forest and other wilds.

Under the new forest code, the amount of forest preserves farmers are required to keep would reduce when deforesting land. It would also pardon some illegal deforestation from the past among other measures. The bill would need to be reconciled with another version if the lower house of Congress were to pass it in May. It would then need to be signed by the president to become law.

The bill is the single biggest piece of legislation to come up in the Brazilian Congress in the first year of president Dilma Rousseff's four-year term. It serves to  highlight concerns over the environmental costs of Brazil's strategy to deploy its vast natural resources to drive economic growth.

Over the past few years, Brazil has allowed new mines in the Amazon region and is spending billions of dollars to build massive hydroelectric dams in the Amazon to harness the electricity-producing potential of rainforest rivers.

The attendant risks of the drive to emerge as a global oil power were brought into sharp focus in November when a Chevron Corp well off Rio de Janeiro leaked 2,400 barrels of oil into the ocean (See: Brazil suspends Chevron's drilling, fines $27.6 million for causing oil spill).

If the senate passes the bill, it would create a new political dilemma for Ms Rousseff, already struggling to keep together a scandal-wracked coalition, even though the bill goes well with her pro-development economic agenda. However, signing it would come with the risk of  alienating environmental groups in her left-wing party, which have vowed to press Rousseff to veto some parts of it.

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Brazil senate passes controversial forestry bill