Brazil Chooses Environmentalist to Head Top Agency

BRASILIA, Brazil, January 23, 2001 (ENS) - Respected environmentalist Hamilton Casara, known affectionately as Indiana Jones after the film hero, took over leadership of the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources (IBAMA) Thursday.

Under the Ministry of Environment, IBAMA is Brazil's environmental protection agency, responsible for implementing all the country's environmental policies from nuclear waste, to forestry, to marine life.

An agricultural engineer and son of a rubber tapper, Casara has been chief of IBAMA in the Brazilian state of Amazonas for the past six years and has 20 years of experience in the environmental area. He has handled the implementation of government programs in the Brazilian states of Rondonia, Rio De Janeiro, Mato Grosso and Acre.


Brazil's environment minister Jose Sarney Filho (Photo courtesy government of Brazil)
In making the appointment, environment minister Jose Sarney said, "I am satisfied in nominating a person with a history of working for environmental causes, engaging in the environmental and popular fights of the Amazonia, and also that he has moral behavior and is of unquestioned loyalty."

Brazilian environmental groups are cautiously hopeful about the new IBAMA chief because of his extensive experience in the field, in contrast to the political and bureaucratic nature of previous heads of IBAMA.

Pointing out that IBAMA has had 14 chiefs since its creation 12 years ago, Friends of the Earth Brazil said in a statement, "If Casara is not given adequate means to transform IBAMA, he alone isn't going to be able to make the institution work."

In his first policy speech, Casara said that IBAMA will concentrate its efforts towards educational campaigns, "using voluntary environmental agents" to promote respect for the environment.


Confluence of the Tapaua and Purus Rivers in the Brazilian state of Amazonas (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
Casara pointed out the value of international cooperation as a global conservation strategy. He promised to create new partnerships with state and municipal governments, as well as with nations which border the huge country of Brazil, a statement that includes most of the countries in South America.

In the past, Casara has distinguished himself in the fight against illegal logging and the trafficking in endangered species.

One of Casara's first moves was a meeting Friday with officials of the University of Brasilia to develop a stronger partnership in the scientific and technological fields. The government and university officials agreed to take actions to preserve the environment, mainly in Amazonia.

One of the priorities for the new agency head will be to organize an agenda for Amazonia, including fighting the illegal traffic in wild animals, control of forest fires, and the reduction of deforestation.

Under Casara's direction, between 1997 and 1999, all the exporting plywood and veneer companies in Amazonas state were fined due to involvement with illegal logging.

Last May, Casara worked with Greenpeace to locate and confiscate illegal timber. The effort was successful in taking 271 illegally cut logs from the timber company and donating them to a local community.


Greenpeace tows 116 illegal logs confiscated by the Brazilian Environment Ministry IBAMA. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace/Rodriao Baleia)

"This apprehension is a result of an integrated action with Greenpeace," said Casara, at the time head of IBAMA in the state of Amazonas. "In accordance with legislation, the timber will be donated to the community in Carauari. As Greenpeace currently has a ship in the region, we asked for their help to tow the raft to the community."