Forest fires and water crisis in south central Chile: No more pine and eucalyptus plantations

Forest fires and water crisis in south central Chile: No more pine and eucalyptus plantations

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By Alfredo Seguel

This social debacle caused by forestry companies keeps numerous forest fires out of control that year after year devastate thousands of hectares of south central Chile, this, while business representatives and certain political sectors try to evade their responsibilities, raising information curtains on “organized attacks and planned ”.

However, an undeniable fact is that the monoculture plantations of pine and eucalyptus, due to their composition and structure, cause fires that cause enormous damage in the territories. Furthermore, year after year the Chilean state invests enormous amounts of financial resources to subsidize companies, through public institutions or universities, whether for biotechnology, market studies, pest control, bonuses to expand on the lands of peasant sectors and Mapuche communities, huge police contingents to protect their properties within the framework of land claims, and huge contingents of brigades to put out the fires.

Despite the disastrous panorama, in Chile, the promotion of monoculture forestation of exotic species continues to be promoted throughout the country through the extension of Decree 701 that was created at the beginning of the military dictatorship and which, at present, secretly intends to double the monoculture plantations of exotic pine and eucalyptus plantations, which would intensify the serious impacts that this industry has been causing and that they intend to expand it on land of the most vulnerable sectors, estimating to reach 5, even 6 million hectares forested with monocultures.

Today, this legislative framework puts on the table the projection of inheritance and the model of the military dictatorship based on predation, on the murder of rural life and the accumulation of wealth for certain privileged groups (mainly companies such as Mininco and Arauco ), facing the possibilities of defining new forms of development that revitalize rural life and strengthen local economies and, incidentally, prioritize the country's security, since an unviable model continues to put the lives of thousands of people, along with the destruction of natural and material assets.

In January 2012, more than 70 organizations throughout Chile, through a public letter alerted various territories to the attempts made by forestry companies and public institutions of the state to promote the introduction of exotic species of pine and eucalyptus that , as noted "will only bring serious consequences for rural life, greater drought, greater impacts, and serious exposure to infection by pests (such as the boring wasp) with total losses." For these reasons, they made a call not to accept the alleged benefits. “Today, there are more than 3 million hectares in south central Chile of these plantations and in the short term they intend to double this amount. Their objective is the introduction of these plants in the lands of Chilean farmers and Mapuche communities with the delivery of supposed benefits, such as gifted plants and even bonuses with money for costs ”, they pointed out.

At another point they pointed out: “Forest entrepreneurs have fortunes in billions of dollars at the cost of the depredation of territories. Pines and eucalyptus trees are exotic species that, on a large scale, suck water from estuaries and subterranean waters, erode the lands and, for their introduction, replace ancestral agricultural and productive lands, as well as native forests. Yes, they are progressively killing rural life. Therefore, with the growing lack of arable land plus the loss of water, a large rural population is forced to emigrate to cities, which in turn are collapsed due to the lack of employment, of real opportunities ”.

Pines and eucalyptus cause fires

Sergio Donoso, Forest Engineer from the University of Chile and president of the Association of Forest Engineers for the Native Forest (AIFBN) informed Radio Universidad de Chile on February 18, 2015 that one of the facilitating elements for the spread of fires is the excessive planting of exotic trees, such as pine and eucalyptus: “This is a facilitating element, when one has a large amount of fuel and it is very homogeneous, of course once the fire starts, the control of these becomes a lot more complex, expensive, difficult and additionally this type of pine and eucalyptus plantations, of fast growing species, entail a high consumption of water, given the growth rates of these species. Therefore, the level of dryness and lack of water that occurs in these environments is much more intense and therefore facilitates the process of propagation of these fires, in that sense they are clearly not elements that allow mitigation, but rather many cases facilitate the spread ”he sentenced.

As has already been highlighted in other publications, Mary T. Kalin Arroyo, 2010 National Science Award and Director of the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) of the University of Chile, published in April 2014 in the newspaper La Tercera a note of opinion regarding the fire that affected the Valparaíso hills and the relationship with the forest plantations, noting: “An aspect little mentioned (regarding the fire in the port) is the composition of the natural vegetation of the Valparaíso hills, which It is the typical Chilean scrub, although flammable, not as much as exotic species (eucalyptus, pine and acacia) that have been planted in the area. Eucalyptus globulus is considered one of the most pyrophytic plants in the world. The leaves contain volatile compounds that locally produce explosive fires. Once lit, the bark peels off, producing additional bulbs. Pines have a high resin content in the leaves. Acacia reveals, which is common in central Chile, is included in the list of most flammable plants in Tasmania, where it is native ”.

Water crisis

Most of the communes of Maule, Bio Bio and Araucanía that present forest concentrations, are affected by the water deficit that plagues this part of the country. Much of the problem, according to community members, is due to the presence of private companies' forest plantations, which consume a large part of the groundwater, which is suffered firsthand by struggling families, who are not offered a comprehensive solution .

While various political and business sectors enjoy their vacations, thousands of families do not have basic water and small-scale agriculture has literally disappeared in these areas.

A 2010 study on the "Effect of Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus plantations on water resources in the Cordillera de la Costa of the Biobío region, Chile", determines certain levels of impact that plantations have on water resources in the south central Chile. The authors and researchers from the Austral University of Valdivia, Anton Huber, Andrés Iroumé, Christian Mohr, Cristian Frêne, have determined levels of impacts, whose analysis was based on the following hypotheses: the different characteristics of the canopy of forest plantations affect the losses of water by interception and, consequently, the total amount of water that reaches the ground in each basin; that the unequal amounts of water involved in evapotranspiration affect the flow of effluents; and that the dissimilarities between the values ​​of the different components of the water balance and the particularities of the basins define the amount of sediments transported.

The situation in which many territories are living shows that it is not possible to continue with the expansion of pine and eucalyptus plantations and, due to a question of safety and collective well-being, it is urgent to change development models so that they tend to revitalize life rural land and not to its elimination, as it has been doing until now. For this reason, it is essential that legislators and political sectors that have promoted the forestry business change their actions under principles and values ​​that address human rights.


Controversy unleashed in Araucanía due to responsibilities in forest fires /

Effect of Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus plantations on water resources in the Cordillera de la Costa /

The forest business fires - See Video /

Water crisis in the Araucanía region, Chile /

Mega Forest Fires are crimes against Humanity /

Organizations from all over Chile call on Peasant Sectors and Mapuche Communities not to introduce more Pines and Eucalyptus in the territories /

The pests that have devastated the forests of southern Chile since 2001 / From Chile/

At the UN: The Case of Companies, Forest Fires and Assemblies to the Mapuche People /

Mapuche Communications Team

Video: Tree School Online: Managing for Beneficial Understory Vegetation (July 2022).


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