Atlantic forest: crime finances deforestation in the south of SP – 05/27/2023 – Environment

Atlantic forest: crime finances deforestation in the south of SP – 05/27/2023 – Environment

In the city of São Paulo, most areas of deforestation in the Atlantic Forest for urban expansion are located in the extreme south. This phenomenon has been occurring for at least three years. The main reason, according to the City Hall, is illegal subdivisions financed by organized crime.

A MapBiomas survey, which monitors land use in Brazil, shows that the capital of São Paulo lost 84.6 hectares (846 thousand mtwo) of its native vegetation from January 2019 to February of this year for housing construction. According to the NGO SOS Mata Atlântica, the municipality has 25 thousand hectares of preserved biome, which is celebrated this Saturday (27), the Day of the Atlantic Forest.

In the south zone alone, 63 hectares (74% of the city’s total) were demolished in the period, equivalent to 88 soccer fields (each measuring 105 meters long and 68 meters wide).

São Paulo’s Green and Environment Secretary, Antonio Pinheiro Pedro, claims to have prevented a worse result since 2021, when, according to him, the Ricardo Nunes (MDB) administration began to prioritize the protection of the biome. “More than 200 hectares of irregular deforestation for settlements were avoided”, he says.

He credits the balance to OIDA (Integrated Operation in Defense of Waters), an initiative coordinated by the City of São Paulo and the state government, which began two years ago. With the help of the police, areas of water and environmental interest in the capital of São Paulo are monitored against environmental crimes.

The main areas covered by the operation are the Guarapiranga and Billings dams. The territory includes four subprefectures in the south of the city: M’Boi Mirim, Capela do Socorro, Parelheiros and Cidade Ademar.

The surroundings of the dams are part of the Green Belt of the city of São Paulo, protected by the Atlantic Forest Law. It encourages the recovery and preservation of areas where native vegetation still thrives.

In that extension, from January 2021 to March this year, surveys resulted in the removal of 379 irregular buildings in 189 kmtwo, with fines totaling more than R$9 million, according to the state government. 432 machines were seized in the actions.

Secretary Antonio Pedro claims that monitoring the region has proved to be a dangerous job. Factions are mainly responsible for deforestation, and subprefecture agents constantly receive letters with death threats, he says.

“Crime acts without fear. The PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital) acts like a real estate corporation. There are, all over the streets, advertisements for land for sale. All illegal. Blatantly, people even give their names and telephone numbers”, he says. also the secretary.

Pedro also claims that the subdivisions are currently more profitable for factions than drug trafficking itself.

Streets in the south zone are not the only spaces to house advertisements for illicit lots for sale. In Facebook groups, the practice is usual. In the last ten days, the report found more than 15 ads of this type in Parelheiros alone. Lands are sold from R$ 100,000 to R$ 150,000, with the possibility of entry starting at R$ 10,000.

In that district alone, MapBiomas identified seven points of considerable deforestation for urban expansion since 2019.

The situation, however, is less serious than that observed in Grajaú, the most populous district of the city and belonging to the subprefecture of Capela do Socorro. There, nine areas clandestinely deforested in the same period were sighted.

One of these territories even gave rise to a neighborhood, Jardim Toca, in Parque Residencial Cocaia, on the banks of Billings. Since 2013, MapBiomas has warned of the expansion of housing in the area in the wake of deforestation.

The new neighborhood is on the opposite bank to Sesc Interlagos, which maintains an area of ​​recovered Atlantic forest, creating a contrast. While the cultural center, seen from above, looks like a green dot, the orange of the bricks and the gray of the cement dominate Jardim Toca.

For Luis Fernando Guedes Pinto, executive director of SOS Mata Atlântica, the greatest danger of the expansion of the city to the south is the approximation of urban areas of the Serra do Mar state park, on the edge of the city, which has the largest preserved continuous portion of Atlantic forest in the country.

“Serra do Mar is a risky place due to its relief of very steep mountains and small ground cover. It is the forest that secures it. By urbanizing that region, we would have more population in risk areas and a greater probability of disasters”, he warns.

A new report by SOS Mata Atlântica and Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) released this week shows that, nationally, deforestation in the Atlantic Forest was above 20,000 hectares last year. The area is equivalent to 125 Ibirapuera parks, in the city of São Paulo, and is the second largest in the last six years.

Evolution of deforestation in Jardim Toca, south zone of São Paulo


Neighborhood emerged from illegal subdivisions, with disproportionate growth. Drag to compare in the images the appearance of housing from February to May 2021 – MapBiomas

With only 24% of the original cover remaining, the Atlantic Forest had 20,075 hectares (or 200.75 km²) felled in 2021-2022, a drop of 7.2% compared to the previous period (2020-2021), which recorded 21,642 hectares deforested.

“For the Atlantic Forest, we are talking about a value that is still very high, far above what was once the lowest index, of 11 thousand hectares, in 2017-2018, and is part of a cumulative process of five centuries of deforestation”, he says. Guedes Pinto.

ongoing investigations

The São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating irregular settlements in watershed areas protected by the Atlantic Forest Law. In 2020, the Public Prosecutor’s Office took steps to clarify the reasons for the spread of these occupations, even in the face of government inspection.

The investigation request cites the social demand for housing as a catalyst for the problem.

The survey looks at possible deficiencies in state and municipal monitoring bodies. It was observed, for example, that the subprefecture of Capela do Socorro had only six agents for inspection of 134 kmtwoin 2020. With 353 kmtwothe situation was the same in Parelheiros.

The SSP (Secretary of Public Security) of São Paulo says that the Civil Police, through the Division of Investigations on Infractions against the Environment, has been investigating the clandestine allotments and that, if the participation of criminal organizations is verified, “the facts will be duly investigated in partnership with the Environmental Military Police”.

The Planeta em Transe project is supported by the Open Society Foundations.

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