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Paraguay makes headlines in Germany for its drug trade and barbecue charcoal. But few know about the sad remnant of forests that have an unprotected conservation status in Paraguay: They are cut down for marijuana and burnt to make barbecue charcoal. The impact on their own and the world's climate is devastating. 

In several episodes we report on these connections between deforestation and its consequences in Paraguay.

Part 1: The context

The Atlantic Rainforest (the Mata Atlântica) is a tropical forest area on the east coast of South America. It also extends into the interior of the continent to the east of Paraguay. The Mata Atlântica is one of the most threatened tropical forests. Due to deforestation, the area was already extremely reduced in the 20th century. The biodiversity is still one of the highest in the world today, although only disjointed remnants exist, most of which have been declared protected areas.

Ban on clearing as a rescue?

In 1992, during the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Rio de Janeiro, the then Paraguayan President General Andrés Rodríguez presented a project to protect forests by creating public and private reserves. This initiative led to the adoption of Section 354 in 1994, which created the national system of protected forest areas in Paraguay. Since 2004, Paraguay has had a ban on forest clearing in the eastern part of the country.

The reality

It seemed that with these laws the country would sufficiently protect its forests. The reality, however, is illegal deforestation and a fire catastrophe caused by the extreme drought in 2020: at the time the protected area was established in 1994, the eastern part of Paraguay still had a forest area of 4,300,000 hectares, according to a report by the forestry service of the National University of Asunción (UNA). The latest data from INFONA (Instituto Forestal Nacional) show that even before the devastating drought there were only 2,700,000 hectares left. According to Rodrigo Zárate, director of Guyrá Paraguay (an organisation that carries out conservation and research projects in the Atlantic Rainforest), trees are still being felled to sell sawn timber and charcoal is made from the remains. After that, marijuana in particular is planted, today in open areas, while in the past the tall trees were still left standing as protection against detection during overflights.

In the next part, we will report in detail on illegal logging.

Why Pro Cosara needs your support

PRO COSARA conducts patrols with government bodies to control slash-and-burn and illegal logging. We urgently need your help in controlling these illegal activities and in reforestation after the devastating fire. Check out our profile page to learn more about our work.

View from the surveillance aircraft: Many fires and clearings can only be detected and localised from the air.

View from the surveillance aircraft: Many fires and clearings can only be detected and localised from the air.