TOME-AÇU, Brazil – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is championing efforts to industrialize the Amazon region with initiatives such as the cultivation of palm oil for biofuel production.
“This is the start of a revolution in this region,” Lula said in a speech in Tome-Açu, a town in the northern state of Para.
The head of state defended plans to build palm-oil processing plants in that state, saying they would help “reduce environmental pollution” and “generate wealth” in one the country’s poorest regions.
Backed by the federal government and state-controlled energy giant Petrobras, the plan would provide incentives for the cultivation of palm oil for the production of biofuels.
It would involve total investment of 1.3 billion reais ($702 million) and encompass two different projects.
Under the first, 120,000 tons of palm-oil-based biofuel would be produced annually to supply Brazil’s northern region; the second would involve a partnership with Portuguese energy firm Galp to export a portion of that fuel to Europe.
Lula noted that, even though Brazil is one of the world’s leading palm-oil producers, it imports “almost half” of the oil its consumes.
He said the initiative would end the state’s dependence on the timber market, considered a main culprit of Amazon deforestation, and hailed palm-oil plantations as environmentally friendly, saying they would re-use deforested areas.
The Brazilian government estimates that close to 2,000 Para farmers would benefit from the project, which is expected to create 7,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs. The plan also involves improvements to roads and bridges that would benefit the entire region.
The Brazilian president also defended other development projects in the region such as the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric complex, which will be the world’s third largest.
“People have to understand,” Lula said, that “the vast majority of people” in Para are in favor of the dam.
The hydro project, which will flood close to 500 square kilometers (almost 200 square miles) of jungle and displace an estimated 50,000 people, has sparked protests by environmentalists, indigenous communities and members of grassroots groups. EFE