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Threatened coastline

The São Paulo coastline comprises today the largest remaining area of the Atlantic Rain Forest and its associated ecosystems, with almost 5% of the tropical forests of the Brazilian coastal strip. It has outstanding social economic importance, in commerce, tourism, leisure, and in industrial activities (like the Cubatão complex), ports (Santos and São Sebastião), as well as the exploitation of minerals. The pressure from these activities, often disorderly and devastating, coupled with the natural frailties of the region, have prompted situations of geological and ecological risk that need to be better known.

The State Plan for Coastal Management already exists (state law 10.019/98). But in order to properly implement it, a project is being developed, with the support of FAPESP, under the coordination of Célia Regina de Gouveia Souza, a scientific researcher from the Geological Institute of the Department for the Environment (IG/Semasp).

The objective is to build a system of information (using the acronym Siigal), with diagnoses and prognoses about the physical environment of the coastal region. Its partners are the department's Coordination of Environmental Planning and the Company of the Technology of Environmental Sanitation (Cetesb), which are responsible for applying the policy for coastal management, as well as similar units from USP, Unesp/Rio Claro and Unesp/Guaratinguetá.

Forecast to finish in October 2002, the study is putting together, in its first stage, the basic maps relating to the current state of the occupation and conservation of the soil, vegetation, water basins, and beaches. From October 2001, there will be studies on geological risks, pollution of the environment, and on the potential for the use of natural resources.

The project – which will also help to prevent the risks of landslides – will be completed with the publication of four papers: a Map of the Suitability of the Use and Occupation of the Soil, a Map of Degenerated Areas, a Map of Critical Areas, and a Map of Geo-environmental Quality. “Until now, the question of geological risk was mostly treated as a natural susceptibility of the physical medium”, says Célia Regina. “Our scientific contribution will be to produce these studies, analyzing the human interventions and their importance in speeding up or in unleashing environmental problems.”