Brasilia (dpa) - The Brazilian government imposed provisional rules Monday to safeguard the country's forests, requiring more reforestation of previously cleared land and widening protected strips along riverbanks.
The rules took effect immediately, ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development known as Rio+20, scheduled for June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro.
President Dilma Rousseff issued an extensive line-item veto on Friday of key aspects of a new forest code law, which legislators had significantly weakened when it passed Brazil's National Congress last month.
The provisional rules issued Monday require small and medium-sized landholdings to reforest within five years any areas that were illegally cleared before 2008. Failure to comply will bring fines and denial of access to public loans.
Such measures had been removed from the legislation in the lower Chamber of Deputies under pressure from the farming lobby. Rousseff said that the text that passed appeared to grant "broad amnesty" to those who destroyed the forest," which goes against the public interest and causes great legal uncertainty."
The new rules imposed by Rousseff require that landowners preserve 100 metres of vegetation along river banks. The bill that passed through the Chamber only required 10-metre-wide protected strips, and only along rivers that were 10 metres wide or less.
The new rules can be modified or overturned by the National Congress, which can also override Rousseff's line-item vetoes by majorities in both chambers.
Since Brazilian democracy was restored in 1985, the National Congress has only overridden a presidential veto three times.
The so-called forest code was passed in December by the Brazilian Senate and in April cleared the final legislative hurdle in the Chamber of Deputies, which added preferential treatment for the agricultural lobby.
Debate on the new code caused outrage among environmental worldwide. Brazil's vast forests, mainly in the Amazon, pulls huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, helping to counter human releases of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuel, but farming and logging have taken a toll, critics charge.
The World Wide Fund for Nature predicted that the new code, if not for the passages removed by Rousseff's veto, would have allowed the way of 76.5 million hectares of rain forest - an area equivalent to Germany, Austria and Italy combined.
Forest destruction is blamed for nearly two-thirds of Brazil's climate-changing carbon-dioxide emissions, but the country has sharply reduced its rate of deforestation in recent years. From August 2010 to July 2011, an estimated 6,238 square kilometres of rainforest were destroyed, 11 per cent less than the previous 12 months, according to official statistics.