CLIMATE NATIONAL POLITICS

New Bill To Prohibit Development on Burned Land

SANTIAGO – Representative Diego Ibáñez has authored a bill to prohibit housing construction on burned land. He has asked that the president mark his bill as urgent. His request comes after a forest fire devastated Quilpué.

Representative Diego Ibáñez has presented a new bill that would impose a 30-year ban on the construction of residential buildings on land that has been cleared by forest fires. The bill would also provide a more generous budget for the firefighters of the National Forest Corporation (CONAF) and incentivize the reforestation of land ravaged by wildfire, thus making it harder for the land to be sold to real estate developers. Ibáñez insists that his bill be given priority by President Sebastián Piñera. This comes after a forest fire raced through the city of Quilpué, which he represents in the lower chamber of Congress.

The bill is being discussed in the lower chamber’s Commission for the Environment.

Trend in Forest Fires

Authorities believe that the forest fire that ravaged Quilpué was intentional. The Intendente of the Valparaíso Region, Jorge Durán, has said that there is an investigation under way but that it is very likely that it was arson due to its similarity to another fire that took place in December.

Forest fires have been bigger and more frequent in recent years, with droughts and rising temperatures being the primary drivers, along with the planting of imported tree species such as pine and eucalyptus that are more flammable and less adapted to the hot and dry environments.

Due to these conditions, the government has extended a preventive state of emergency until May 2021 for 13 regions: Atacama, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, O’Higgins, Maule, Ñuble, Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos, Los Lagos, Aysén, Magallanes, and the Metropolitan.

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Forest Fires: The Role of the Dictatorship

Ibáñez on the Fires

During a 2020 interview with the Terram Foundation, Ibáñez said, “It has been proven that in three cases in the Valparaíso region, in San Antonio, Valparaíso and Quilpué, forest fires have been used to change the value of the land to build real estate projects.”

During a recent interview with CNNChile, Ibáñez talked about his bill and said, “This is a way of approaching the subject preemptively … in San Antonio, Valparaíso, and Quilpué there have been fires that later become housing projects.”

The Representative added, “Those of us who come from here [the Valparaíso Region] know exactly who takes advantage of the cheapening of the forest floor and buys it to build real estate projects.”

His bill is modeled after similar laws in Spain and Mexico, which have been created to fight climate change and protect native forests, which are also among his primary goals.

On Jan. 15, Ibáñez tweeted, “Multiple instantaneous starting points made the fire uncontrollable. This is intentional! I spoke with the president of the Environmental Committee and next Tuesday we will discuss the bill that will prohibit real estate on affected lands. The government must make this bill urgent!”

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