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Environment

Brazil Supreme Court justice demands explanation on weakened coastal forest law

FILE PHOTO: Judge Rosa Weber attends a session of the Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian Supreme Court justice Rosa Weber has demanded Environment Minister Ricardo Salles explain a decision earlier in the week, which sought to weaken laws around coastal woodlands.

Weber’s request, dated 30 Sept., gave Salles 48 hours to provide information surrounding the decision, citing the “urgency” of the issue.

On Monday, Brazil’s National Environmental Council (Conama) revoked protections for mangroves and a type of coastal forest known as restinga that grows on splits of seaside land.

Conama’s decision was later suspended by a federal judge who cited the risk to the environment that it posed.

Salles has argued that these forest types are already protected by a separate piece of Brazilian legislation, known as the Forest Code. However, there are some crucial differences between the Conama’s protections and the Forest Code that environmentalists said could be exploited to further coastal development.

The previous Conama regulation, for example, protected restingas for a minimum of 300 meters from the sea, a detail missing from the Forest Code. Without it, disputed areas, such as degraded woodland, might no longer be classified as protected - potentially opening the path for real estate development.

For mangroves, although the Forest Code protects them in their entirety, again the revoking of the Conama legislation opens up potential loopholes over what exactly is classified as mangrove.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, writing by Stephen Eisenhammer

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