Deforestation in Paraguayan Chaco (c) Alberto Yanosky

Livestock company in Paraguay held liable for illegal deforestation

In Paraguay, a livestock company has been held liable for illegal deforestation. The company agreed to reforest a plot of 1,860 hectares to avoid prosecution for environmental crime. An historic event, according to our local partner organization IDEA, which pressed charges against the company.

Header photo: Deforestation in Paraguayan Chaco © Alberto Yanosky

Last week, businessman Antonio Scavone Oddone, owner of the Dasca S.A.G.A.C.I. cattle ranch, was sentenced to reforest an area of 1,860 hectares that had been cleared without permission. The businessman agreed in order to avoid further prosecution.

The complaint was filed in 2019 by the Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (IDEA), which uses public information, such as land registry data and information about issued licenses, and combines it with current information about deforestation. ‘In this way, they investigate whether the observed deforestation is lawfully and they denounce illegal deforestation,’ says Sander van Andel, Senior Expert Nature Conservation at IUCN NL.

‘It is the first time that such a sentence has been imposed in a deforestation case resulting from the use of combined public information,’ Ezequiel Santagada, lawyer at IDEA, told Paraguayan newspaper Última Hora.

Repairing damage done to nature

Moreover, it is unique that the sentence requires repairing the damage done to nature. ‘Usually, in environmental cases at most a fine is imposed,’ Van Andel explains. ‘The fact that nature restoration has now been imposed is unique.’

The businessman is given two years to replant the area. The secondary forest that is thus being created may never be cut down again. In addition, Scavone has to purchase environmental certificates for an area of 200 hectares, which can postpone legal deforestation in that part of the Chaco region by four years.

Environmental justice

The verdict sets a precedent, making it easier to oblige businesses or individuals guilty of illegal deforestation to ensure forest restoration and pay compensation.

‘This opens the door to environmental justice,’ Van Andel emphasizes. ‘In addition, IDEA is now officially recognized as a party that can press charges to companies in the interest of nature.’ Previously, only the Public Prosecution Service could bring such cases to court. The actio legitimatis that recognized  IDEA in this first case paves the way for the future involvement of environmentalist NGOs in environmental crime cases.

Sander van Andel
Senior Expert Nature Conservation