Brazil must pass law to protect world's largest wetland
Covering over 170,000 km², the Pantanal spreads across two states in Brazil and into Bolivia and Paraguay, providing water and critical ecosystem services to communities across the region as well as harbouring at least 4,700 species of plants and animals.
But it lost 15% of its total area up to 2009 and there is little sign of the situation improving as deforestation, forest fires, the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, bad agricultural practices, and lack of basic sanitation continue to pose serious threats.
It is time for concrete action to conserve the biodiversity of the Pantanal and promote the sustainable use of its natural resources. First and foremost, the government of Brazil should approve and implement the Pantanal Law before the end of this year. Despite the Pantanal’s importance, the bill has been languishing since 2011.
To mark World Wetlands Day on February 2nd, WWF is calling for the bill to be rapidly pushed through the remaining stages so that it can be signed into law in 2017.
However, it should not be adopted without some critical amendments. While the current text ensures that the use of the Pantanal’s natural resources will be governed by the polluter pays and user pays principles and prohibits certain activities within the biome such as dam construction and the use of agrochemicals, there are significant gaps that need to be addressed.
Most importantly, the bill should include not only the Pantanal floodplain but also the upland areas that encompass its headwaters. If these critical regions are not conserved, the Pantanal will remain threatened. But the bill should also provide incentives to promote sustainable development, including in traditional communities, and to encourage environmental restoration and conservation.
The Pantanal Bill has been under discussion for six years. It has taken far too long already. The world’s largest wetland needs to be covered by comprehensive legislation that covers restoration and conservation, support for traditional communities and the promotion of sustainable development.
On World Wetlands Day, the government should make a commitment to do all it can to speed up the process and ensure that the Pantanal gets the protection it deserves before the year is over.