viernes, enero 27, 2017

CHILE: sobre la destrucción de vastas áreas forestales

  Comentario  en THE GUARDIAN-autor anónimo.

The first thing to note is that it is wrong to define forest plantations as "forests". While the latter are complex ecosystems - formed over hundreds or thousands of years - that contain a great biological diversity, and are characterised, among other things, by attracting water from the rains and the mist and transferring it to the soil and subsoil, artificial tree plantations of non-native tree species (in this case pine and eucalyptus) lead to the massive and unsustainable extraction of water from the underground water tables: according to studies by the Forest Engineers Association for Native Forests, a 20-year-old eucalyptus consumes 200 litres of water daily and on average 1,600 trees per hectare are planted.
Forest mono-culture also involves the extermination of diversity. This happens through the application of toxic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, as natural vegetation, insects and fungi, so characteristic of natural forests, are seen by foresters as enemies, as they dent economic profits.
While native forest promotes the protection of soils and water sources, mono-culture has the opposite effect: it dries the soil and causes erosion and desertification, and creates the ideal conditions for uncontrollable fires.
Some background:
In October 1974, the Military Dictatorship led by General Pinochet approved Decree Law 701 (DL 701), which allowed mono-culture plantations of eucalyptus and radiata pine to receive a subsidy from the State which nominally covered 75% of the initial investment but which, in truth, covered 100% or more.
Moreover, the military dictatorship subsidised in other ways the rich families dedicated to this sector. The dictatorship provided, at knockdown prices: nurseries, industrial plants (pulp) and tens of thousands of hectares of land, much of which had been taken from indigenous Mapuche communities. Many villagers were killed for defending their lands and nobody could do anything to defend them.
This dictatorship’s intervention not only favoured the concentration of land, but also the exponential enrichment of two families in particular: the Mattes (Forestal Mininco, CMPC pulp mills) and the Angelinis (Forestal Arauco, Celco pulp mills). These families together have more land than the entire Mapuche people combined. While these two families together own over two million hectares (i believe that figure is probably much greater now), the 300,000 Mapuche who live in rural communities have just over 900,000 hectares. This monstrous injustice has directly led to the mistakenly named "Mapuche conflict". For more on that issue here's an article in the Washington Post. In fact, there are some voices being raised in Chile blaming the forest fires on the Mapuche, some even claiming they're being backed by the Farc of Colombia, Islamic State, and world terrorism in general. However, given the tendency of some Chilean drivers to toss burning fag ends out the car window irrespective of the surrounding landscape and prevalent heat wave, or to go drinking in the countryside and trash their glass bottles on the nearest rocks, or simply not thoroughly put out a campfire-barbecue, the likely cause of these devastating fires is a combination of highly combustible forestry plantations, climate change, and human negligence.
The forestry sector accounts for 13% of the country's total exports, with a value of USD 6 billion aprox., however, little of the huge profits filter back to the local communities where plantations are located, and which are now being ravaged by the fires. In the province of Arauco (Biobío Region) the poverty rate is around 26.9%, while in the provinces of Malleco and Cautín (Araucanía) these figures are 25% and 35.1%, respectively.
And certainly recent governments could have done more to provide the necessary infrastructure in equipment and trained personnel to counter the threat of such huge fires, it's not as if they haven't been occurring on a regular basis over the last few decades, more so since the onset of the major drought that has gripped Chile for the last eight to ten years ...yet half the planes used for this purpose are currently out of service, their size making them rather ineffective anyway, and rather than purchase newer and more effective models, the State has been busy over the last ten years in acquiring a fleet of much more expensive F16s for the country’s air force.


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