Memorial Trees Planted in Brazil for Covid-19 Victims

Por IPS

Family members plant trees for three reasons: to honor the memory of their loved ones lost to COVID-19, to thank health workers fighting against the pandemic, and to conserve ecosystems that are being harmed by deforestation. Photo: RBMA/Pnuma

HAVANA TIMES – In the Mata Atlantica (Atlantica Forest) region, in south-eastern Brazil, 200,000 trees are in the process of being planted. The effort combines conservation with memorials to the victims of COVID-19, a report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) highlighted this week.

Brazil is the third country in the world with the most cases of COVID-19, after the US and India, as 8.5 million of its 211 million inhabitants have already been infected, and 210,000 Brazilians have lost their lives, according to statistics from the US John Hopkins University.

The planting, conservation and restoration project of wildlife, as a tribute to those lost and in thanks to health professionals fighting COVID-18. It began on December 12, 2020, by groups of mourning families.

“This action is very important because of the fact that trees are life and a connection to Mother Nature,” Rafael da Silva de Lima from Sao Paulo told UNEP representatives. He has lost both his father, Reginaldo Alves de Lima, as well as his cousin, Edna Maria de Almeida, to the virus.

The campaign initially planned to plant 6500 trees, and is endorsed by the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve and the Atlantic Forest Restoration Pact, with restoration projects being developed in 17 out of Brazil’s 26 states.

The Atlantic Forest, or Mata Atlántica, was a tropical rainforest measuring 1.3 million km2 a century ago. Located in south-east Brazil, north-east Argentina and Paraguay, it has now shrunk by 12% of its original size, reduced to no more than 160,000 km2.

This is “a great project, because it reveals the multiple dimensions of the restoration process. It seeks to heal our relationship with Nature and is also a healing experience for ourselves, at the same time,” Tim Christophersen said, the director of UNEP’s Nature and Climate subdivision.

UNEP has already committed itself to ensuring that tree seedlings are taken care of and watered until they reach maturity. Likewise, to help the civil society organizations involved in the new initiative in their quest to raise the profile and awareness about the campaign.

Organizations involved will make sure that native tree species to the region are planted. Especially in the state of Rio de Janeiro, habitat of an endangered species of small monkey, the Golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia), which is native to the Atlantic coast in south-east Brazil.

Centuries of deforestation have cut down the golden lion tamarin’s habitat to only 2% of its original area, so there are efforts to reintroduce specimens bred in captivity in corridors that link different fragments of the rainforest, which these new reforestation efforts contribute towards.

In 2018, an unprecedented outbreak of yellow fever that devastated the Brazilian south-east, killed many people and reduced the golden lion tamarin population from 3600 to 2500 monkeys. Today, COVID-19 is threatening those who work to conserve the species and their habitat. It’s unknown whether the virus can be transmitted amongst these monkeys.

Promotors of the rainforest project want to finish planting 200,000 trees before World Environment Day, on June 5th.

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