Authorities in Brazil have announced a new strategy to reduce illegal logging and timber trafficking in the Amazon, but the plan is likely to face serious obstacles given the magnitude and complexity of the problem.
Brazil's Minister of the Environment, Sarney Filho, announced on March 7 the launch of a new program that will regulate and track the entire logging process, from exploration to storage to transportation and exportation, according to an official press release.
The program, called the National System for Control of the Origin of Forest Products (Sistema Nacional de Controle da Origem dos Produtos Florestais - SINAFLOR), was put into use for the first time last week in the state of Roraima, according to EBC Rádio, and will be obligatory for all states starting in January 2018.
SINAFLOR is intended to prevent the insertion of illegally-sourced wood into the legal market, reported Notimex.
"It's necessary that we maintain under control, that we reduce, that we put an end to, that we suffocate the illegality," Minister Filho said.
The system will also enable authorities to understand the extent of deforestation in the Amazon, said Suely Araújo, president of the environment ministry's natural resource arm.
"We will now have the possibility of knowing the real deforestation," she said. "What is outside of SINAFLOR will be considered illegal. That's not something we have today."
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The environment ministry's plan to trace the wood along every link in the production and distribution chain is an ambitious one, considering how much wood is cleared and how little state presence there is in Brazil's remote Amazon region. The BBC estimated in 2015 that there are "thousands of small illegal logging camps across the Amazon," and said the authorities' attempts to locate them "is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack."
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Furthermore, it's unclear whether similar attempts in the past have had much of an impact on the illegal logging industry. Members of Greenpeace Brazil have placed GPS devices on trucks deep in the forest in order to trace the movements of timber traffickers, which in at least one instance helped the authorities to prepare a raid. Indigenous communities in Peru and Panama have also considered using drones to monitor deforestation of their lands.
Yet the problem only appears to be getting worse in Brazil, with reports of increasingly violent clashes between state agents and loggers. The loggers have also reportedly begun using diversionary tactics like setting fire to huge sections of rainforest in order to discreetly haul wood away from indigenous reserves, which are legally protected from logging.