Ibama Employees Start Strike

The 6,400 employees at Brazilian environmental regulator Ibama have started their threatened strike in protest over what they deem as government interference in the organization's structure, local press reported.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva published a presidential decree late last month ordering Ibama to split up the management and overseeing of nature reserves into a new institute dubbed Chico Mendes.

The remainder of Ibama would continue to license and oversee infrastructure and energy projects of large environmental impact, according to the decree.

The Ibama restructuring comes as the government faces increasing pressure to accelerate the licensing of key projects and follows Ibama's decision to delay approval of the 6,450MW Madeira hydroelectric project EISs.

Opponents believe the split is part of the government's plan to speed up the environmental licensing process necessary for the implementation of infrastructure-related projects within its growth acceleration plan (PAC).

PAC, announced by Lula in January, aims to generate 504bn reais (US$250bn) in public and private investment over the next four years.

But according to a recent government report, only 864 projects - a little over half the 1,646 planned for execution within PAC - are moving at a rate considered acceptable by the government's own standards. Almost 40% of the total need attention and 8.4% are considered "worrying."

At the same time, "everything has been geared towards supporting those sectors of the government that want the licenses granted at whatever cost, even if this harms the environment," Ibama employee association president Jonas Correa was quoted as saying.

If the association's plans are carried out, the industrial action will continue at least until Wednesday, when regional representatives will meet to discuss the strike's future.

According to Correa, the government now wishes to speak with the employee association about the restructuring of Ibama, although "that discussion should have taken place before" the decision to split the regulator.

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