By Jørn Stave
The law was clearly aimed at Aracruz Celulose's plans for expanding its 88,000 hectare plantations with an additional 17,000 hectares in Espirito Santo. The opposition against Aracruz, which is partly owned by the Erling Lorentzen family and the Norwegian bank DnB, has been going on for several years and is currently co-ordinated by the Forum Alert Against the Green Desert.
President of the Environment Committee of the State Parliament, Nasser Youssef, says that the company "does not benefit the state, does not pay taxes and treats Espirito Santo as if it were a colony". "We demand to be treated with respect", he added.
According to the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), the law proposal was embraced by environmental and human rights activists from several Latin American countries. Letters to support the law have been sent to the State Governor, Jose Ignatio Ferreira, from Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
However, the Governor soon decided to veto the law through a "solemn session". WRM suggests that this was done to publicly defend the company's interests.
Based on the law proposal, the Environmental Committee decided to organise a seminar on the issue of eucalyptus plantations. The seminar took place in Vitoria, the capital city of the state, between August 21 and August 23. The intentions were to establish the baseline for the State Parliament to decide on whether to overrule the Governor's veto or to open the doors for Aracruz to continue its expansion in Espirito Santo.
The seminar was open for both opponents and supporters of eucalyptus plantations in Espirito Santo. Among those invited were representatives of Aracruz Celulose. The company, however, declined the invitation and wrote a letter to Nasser Youssef of the State Parliament, in which they suggested an alternative programme, focusing on the need for stable rules for corporate investments, rather than an ideologic and tendentious debate on the issue of tree plantations. The letter from Aracruz states that its plantations "conserve biodiversity", "conserve the soil", "protect hydrological resources", "generate employment and rent", "contribute to regional development", and "generate tax incomes".
According to WRM, the seminar was a huge success with broad participation. Aracruz, on the other hand, organised its own seminar, where only supporters of the company were invited.
Norwatch Newsletter 8/01