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Pantanal Law and the Advancement of the “Payments for Environmental Services (PSA)” Agenda

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In a landmark development for environmental conservation and community well-being, Wetlands International and Mupan (Women in Action in the Pantanal) celebrate six years of dedicated collaboration through the Corredor Azul Program (PCA), initiated in 2017. This pioneering effort has played a pivotal role in fostering synergy between the conservation of the Pantanal biome and the prosperity of communities that inhabit this vast wetland. Our mission extends beyond the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Encompassing the safeguarding of Pantanal’s way of life and unique culture as well as its invaluable contributions to fulfilling fundamental human needs.

During the initial stages of the PCA, our focus centred on cultivating technical-scientific knowledge with an emphasis on Ecosystem Services – the myriad benefits nature bestows upon people. Our primary objective is to convert the previously intangible monetary value of nature’s contributions into tangible advantages for both the Pantanal and those who protect it and depend on nature as a source of prosperity. Expanding this influence beyond the geographic borders of the Pantanal.

The publication “Subsídios para Pagamentos por Serviços Ambientais em Áreas Úmidas: Pantanal” (Subsidies for Payments for Environmental Services in Wetlands: Pantanal) consolidates well-founded information. Poised to accelerate our efforts in contributing to the development of a Payment Program for Environmental Services (PSA) aligned with the Pantanal’s unique characteristics. It’s based on evidence that can facilitate informed decisions.

The recent approval of Bill 343/2023 by the Legislative Assembly signifies a noteworthy advancement. Our active representation in the assembly emphasized the project’s crucial role in addressing conservation, protection, and ecologically sustainable exploration within the Restricted Use Area of the Pantanal Plain in Mato Grosso do Sul. This legislative milestone marks a significant stride forward in our collective efforts toward environmental stewardship and sustainable development in the region. Noteworthy is the establishment of the Pantanal Climate Fund, part of this legislative measure, designed to promote sustainable development by managing subsidies for Payment for Environmental Services Programs (PSA). These programs, when combined with good practices, are pivotal for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Pantanal, with a specific focus on protecting springs, regulating water quantity and quality, and preserving landscapes of extraordinary scenic beauty.

The recently approved law, which supersedes Decree No. 14,273 of October 8, 2015, heralds substantial modifications, with particular emphasis on articles 7 and 27. Article 7 now stipulates a mandatory minimum width of 50 meters for the marginal strip along paths. This measurement is calculated from the permanently marshy and waterlogged space or from the upper limit of the wetland, irrespective of the vegetation type present. This amendment represents a notable enhancement in preservation efforts compared to the previous version, which excluded the 50-meter line from the permanent preservation areas on paths, focusing solely on the wet field line.

Furthermore, Article 27, § 2, brings clarity to consolidated commercial cultivation and imposes restrictions on the expansion of licensed cattle confinement activities. This adjustment rectifies the previous version’s leniency, especially when contrasted with the stipulations of the Native Vegetation Protection Law (Forest Code).

In Article 27, § 2, the legislation provides precise guidance on consolidated commercial cultivation and introduces restrictions on the expansion of licensed cattle confinement activities. This legal provision delineates explicit parameters, aiming to regulate land use responsibly and forestall unchecked growth that might jeopardize the delicate ecological equilibrium of the Pantanal.

By implementing these well-defined limitations, the law achieves a nuanced yet crucial balance between economic activities and environmental conservation, protecting the complex ecosystems of the Pantanal. This strategic approach not only addresses the immediate concerns of land use but also ensures the sustainable coexistence of economic activities and the preservation of the Pantanal’s unique environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Additionally, the new law introduces a significant change in fire management, as highlighted in Section V. Previously, environmental authorizations needed evidence that practices such as cleaning native and cultivated pastures and using fire for rural vegetation management aligned with criteria established by IMASUL. However, the state decree lacked a systematic and planned articulation of these criteria. The current legislation now mandates the licensing of fire use as controlled or prescribed burning, even allowing for the incorporation of the Integrated Fire Management Plans (PMIF). This critical amendment marks a shift toward a more comprehensive and strategic approach to fire management practices in the region.

In this specific context, Wetlands International has collaborated extensively with esteemed partners, including the Environmental Satellite Applications Laboratory of the Department of Meteorology (LASA) at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the government of Mato Grosso do Sul, and scientists from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul via the Center for Fire Studies in Wetlands (NEFAU). This collective effort has given rise to a groundbreaking solution: the SIFAU – Fire Intelligence System in Wetlands. Representing a seamless fusion of scientific expertise and technological innovation, this system has been meticulously designed to support the rational use of fire in wetland regions.

SIFAU serves as a comprehensive tool, offering crucial information for governmental bodies, rural producers in the Pantanal, and environmental technicians involved in the authorization processes of controlled and/or prescribed burning in the Wetlands of Mato Grosso do Sul. It comprises four integral components:

Firstly, the system provides a forward-looking Fire Danger Warning for the Next 5 Days grounded in meteorological data, enabling proactive risk assessment. Secondly, an Alert for Areas Burned in the Last 60 Days functions as a real-time indicator, ensuring swift identification and monitoring of recent burn activities. Thirdly, a Map of Accumulated Biomass Above Ground visually represents the quantity of available fuel material, aiding in the evaluation of potential impacts and informing decision-making processes. Lastly, the system offers insights into Land Use and Occupation, providing a comprehensive understanding of current land utilization patterns to assess broader ecological implications.

Wetlands International and Mupan assert with confidence that these collaborative efforts and the resultant products play a pivotal role in guiding informed discussions and contributing significantly to the regulatory processes associated with the recently enacted law.