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Buffer Zone

Study that proposed a protection zone for the Cantareira Park inspires a bill

UNG/QUICKBIRD 03/05/2004The urban area of Guarulhos advances in the direction of the green of the Cantareira ParkUNG/QUICKBIRD 03/05/2004

The Cabuçu Nucleus of the Cantareira State Park, an untouched piece of 26.7 square kilometers of forest on the boundary of Guarulhos, a suburb of the city of São Paulo, is going to win a protective belt, in a bill forwarded by the municipal government to the city’s Chamber of Councilors. The project disciplines the use of the ground in the municipality, which belongs to the São Paulo Metropolitan Region, and establishes guidelines for the creation of an environmental protection area in a 32.2 square kilometer strip of land between the Cabuçu Nucleus and the urban area of Guarulhos.

This transition area, which is classified as a rural zone by the current legislation, is suffering an intense pressure from urbanization. It already shelters irregular occupations and landfills. But 45% of its territory is still made up of practically unexplored Atlantic Rain Forest. According to the proposed law, which should be voted before the end of the year, the occupation of this strip would involve a process of reorganization: dwellings in landslide zones would be removed to safer places, deforested areas would be given back their natural vegetation, and activities like ecotourism would win an incentive. So the belt would be converted into a defense zone, capable of preventing the metropolis from advancing over the Cantareira State Park, a region of water sources that was listed as preservation area in the 19th century.

The advent of the transition area, embraced by the municipal government, is a direct result of a project financed by FAPESP under the auspices of the Public Policies Research Program, instituted in 1995, with the objective of establishing partnerships between universities and research institutes and bodies from the public sector and from the third sector in search of solutions for concrete problems of the population or obstacles to good administrative management. “We have a historic chance of preventing urbanization from encroaching on the Cantareira State Park, such as has already happened in neighboring municipalities like São Paulo” says Antônio Manoel dos Santos Oliveira, the coordinator of the research, who is a director of the Geoprocessing Laboratory and Professor of the Master’s Degree Course in Geoenvironmental Analysis at the University of Guarulhos (UnG).

The Cabuçu project was carried out between 2001 and 2005, bringing about an unprecedented mapping of the region, with the identification of each one of its micro-basins and the installation of a meteorological station. Maps were drawn up of geology, land use and environmental legislation, amongst others, besides a diagnosis of the possibilities of sustainable exploitation. The search for solutions involved researchers from UnG, the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Institute for Technological Research (IPT), in partnership with secretariats of the Municipal Government of Guarulhos and the city’s Forestry Institute and Autonomous Water and Sewage System (SAEE).

According to Guarulhos’s secretary for Urban Development, architect Roberto dos Santos Moreno, the partnership was important, both for the technicians from the municipal government and public bodies, depositaries of new knowledge about the region, and for the researchers, invited to evaluate practical issues. “The research project has become a great ally for us in defining the new zoning of the city, and it has had an influence in the drawing up of the new Master Plan for Guarulhos, approved in 2004” Moreno says.

Defining the area of environmental protection is not going to avoid the region adjacent to the Cabuçu Nucleus from being inhabited, but it tries to prevent uses that cause significant impacts. “The idea of the protection area is conservationist, not preservationist” explains UnG’s geology professor, Márcio Roberto Magalhães de Andrade, who was incorporated into the project when he was working in the technical area of the municipal government of Guarulhos. On the basis of this diagnosis, the group proposed a new approach for the region.

The micro-basins were to constitute the basic units of environmental diagnosis and urban planning. Models of occupation would be developed that respect the environmental conditions of each micro-basin, eliminating areas of risk and valuing the services of the biosphere. In this direction, the project contributed towards the Subglobal Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which is being started at the Biosphere Reservation of the Green Belt of the City of São Paulo.

The participation of the population in the management of the environment is another touchstone of the project. One of the objectives is to link the municipality’s rural proprietors, residents, and environmental police. Another is to create an environmental education park, helping to disseminate amongst the students the importance of sustainable occupation. “The management of urban forests is problematical all over Brazil. Our experience can be put to good use in other cities” says Antônio Manoel dos Santos Oliveira, the coordinator of the project.