Not soy, but music in the Brazilian Pantanal!
The Pantanal, in the heart of South America, at the border of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is the world’s largest freshwater wetland with an extremely rich biodiversity. Tourism and fishing are the main sources of income for the local population. This enormous natural area is invaluable for the water management of a large part of the continent, stretching all the way down to the Argentinian La Plata area, some 1,500 kilometres away. The area faces many threats and Both ENDS therefore already started actively supporting local organisations striving to protect the Pantanal in 1994.
The largest threat to the Pantanal is the construction of over 150 small dams in the rivers that feed the wetland. These dams are used to produce energy and thus are a lucrative investment. This energy is not meant for the local population, but for the big cities in the rest of the country. Besides these dams, the increasing production of soy in and around the area poses a serious threat. For cheap and fast transportation in large container ships of soy and other commodities meant for export, the dredging and canalisation of the Paraguay-Parana River is high on the agenda. This will not only make it more attractive to grow soy, but will also increase the importance of animal husbandry and mining in the area. So big economic interests are at play here. Under pressure of the agricultural, mining and energy sectors as well as investors, current legislation, offering some protection at least, is being liberalised. Furthermore, mandatory environmental studies are not or insufficiently conducted.
Local organisations participate
Through the Ecosystem Alliance (a collaboration with IUCN NL and Wetlands International), Both ENDS over the past four years has been able to offer even stronger support to local organisations in the Pantanal. In these four years, these organisations have closely worked with the people living in the Pantanal – fishermen, small producers, native groups, teachers and their pupils – to raise their awareness of the area’s value and the threats it is faced with. These local organisations, often founded by locals, now take part in policy discussions and planning processes to prevent future damage. A huge challenge in view of the enormous power of the agricultural, mining and energy sectors actually promoting these harmful developments in the Pantanal.
So our local partners can use all the support they can get. Especially when it comes to publicity, to make people aware of the disastrous developments in the Pantanal. Because music is an important way to share knowledge in South America, Ecosystems Alliance and its partners invited musicians form Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia to be part of the Pantanal Poetica. During a boat trip from Corumba to Serra do Amolar on the River Paraguay; these musicians composed new songs, inspired by their surroundings. The musicians and representatives of local organisations were not the only ones to take this trip: the marine placed one of its ships at the project’s disposal, including 48 crewmembers, and the mayor of Corumba joined in as well. Scientists also took part in this project to share their knowledge in the discussions. The musicians performed their songs at several locations along the river. Their concert in Corumba was even filmed so the rest of the world could enjoy it as well. Local Brazilian media reported about this musical boat trip, both the newspapers and the local television station. To top things off, a documentary is being made about this inspirational expedition: a great way to bring more attention to the Pantanal!
In the years to come, Both ENDS will keep supporting local organisations in the Pantanal. We are especially worried about the expansion of soy production in this fragile area. For the production of soybeans many pesticides are used, which leach directly into the water. This wreaks havoc on fish stocks, public health and local tourism. There is a big, global discussion going on about the impact of soy production on people and their living environment. This discussion is often limited to the prevention of deforestation. But a fragile and vital area such as the Pantanal is absolutely unsuitable for the cultivation of soybeans as well. This is something producers, importers, processors, supermarkets and consumers should easily agree upon. In the coming years, we will work extra hard to let all of them know a soy-free zone is what’s best for the precious Pantanal area.
Also see our joint publication: The whole Pantanal, not just the half (December 2014)
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