A study on deforestation in the Great American Chaco showed that in 2012 a total of 539,233 hectares were deforested, this leads an average of 1,473 hectares per day, indicating a rapid annual increase. In 2010, were 266,118 hectares and in 2011 increased to 294,566 hectares.
The Great American Chaco , the second largest biome in South America after the Amazon, spreads across Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia.
Is a mosaic of environments that encompasses high levels of biodiversity and the largest forested area on the continent after the Amazon. Its 106,600,000 Ha span four different countries: Argentina (62.19%), Paraguay (25.43%), Bolivia (11.61%) and Brazil (0.77%).
Sparsely populated due to its dry, hot and hostile landscape, it is home to less than 3% of the country’s population, most of which is concentrated in the Mennonite colonies but also includes several remote indigenous groups.
Today, the Gran Chaco is under serious threat from illegal logging, primarily to clear land for cattle ranching, and soy cultivation.
Brazilian landowners are buying huge tracts of the land in the Chaco in order to clear for cattle ranching or for monoculture cultivation of soy.
The Gran Chaco is home to dozens of indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples. It is also an ecological region with great biodiversity. It is the biggest forest area of South America after the Amazon. Besides the autochthonous ecosystems, it has biological elements from the Andes, the Paraná jungle and the Brazilian Matogrosso.
According to the data the landscape is experiencing worrying amounts of change – a progressing challenge despite the existence of institutional and legal frameworks put in place to protect forests such as the National Environmental Policy, the Zero Deforestation Law (2004),the Forestry Law, and minority communities’ rights.
However, the institutional framework remains weak and the region lacks institutional coordination and adequate land use planning.
Nevertheless, NGO’s are playing a fundamental role in reducing deforestation. Although Paraguay has yet to develop an official monitoring system, GUYRA, a civil non-profit organization, has recently started to monitor land use change in the Gran Chaco.
To reduce deforestation, sustainable pathways towards conservation must be established. To that effect, inter-related strategies such as Institutional Strengthening, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), National Protected Areas and Community Territories and Continued Scientific Research, are some of the areas that need to be implemented or further strengthened.
Gustavo Carrasquel | ANCA24