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Eucalyptus plantations in São Luiz do Paraitinga. “Deserto Verde” in São Paulo, Brazil


The Paraíba Valley is located in the transition between the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and close to the Atlantic Ocean coast. Nowadays, the Valley is famous for its industry – centred on the automobile, ironworks, and aerospace manufactures– and for being an important contributor to Brasil’s GDP. Initially covered by swamps in the plain areas and Atlantic forest in the mountainous regions surrounding it, the Valley has lost most of its biodiversity due to different human uses for the land. While big coffee plantations where the main crop until its crisis the 1930s, agricultural production progressively turned to cattle (mostly for milk) and rice. In the past decades, though, eucalyptus monocultures have been substituting these traditional activities to produce cellulose fibres. São Luiz do Paraitinga is located in the Paraíba Valley and is an area that has been suffering a process of changes in the use of the soil for the economic activities. Historically, the agriculture of smallholders was the main activity of the city. The city have strong traditional and culture related to the land and was safeguard of the countryside culture [1]. The eucalyptus arrives in the municipality of São Luiz do Paraitinga for the governmental incentives during the military dictatorial period, in first years of the 1970  decade [2].

There are three main cellulose and paper companies in the region, Votorantim Celulose e Papel S.A. (VCP), Suzano Papel e Celulose S.A. and Nobrecel S.A., that utilize more than 80% of eucalyptus trees grown in the region.  Eucalyptus monocultures have brought new environmental and social challenges to an area already heavily deforested. The substitution of traditional agriculture activities by the crop has displaced many peasants from rural areas. The owners sign an exclusivity contract and receive payments in advance for technical support and for the company’s saplings. Some plantation workers have also denounced health impacts of the use of herbicides, such as nausea, vision loss, and lower white cell count. Furthermore, the herbicides have  contaminated both underground and surface waters, causing damage to fish, livestock and fruit trees. According to locals, the agro-toxics used by in eucalyptus crops have also caused the death of many wild species. One of the aspects denounced is that the most important companies working in the area carry the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label for social and environmental sustainability, thus putting in question the validity of such certification procedures.

In 2007, different national and local social organizations such as the Brazil Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), the Associação de Favelas de São José dos Campos, the Convergência dos Movimentos Populares da América Latina (Compal) and the Movimento em Defesa dos Pequenos Agricultores (MDPA) marched in the municipality of São Luís do Paraitinga. They demanded the Public Ministry puts a stop and prohibits new plantations as well as punishing the paper companies for the environmental and social impacts caused, including disrespect for workers’ rights. Some people in the Catuçaba district also tried to prevent one of the companies from transporting logs using the village’s roads. A couple of months later, a Public Prosecutor from Taubaté initiated a legal action against two companies: Votorantim and Suzano. In this action, it asked that these companies pay compensation for the irregularities they’re accused to be used in environmental mitigation and restoration. Moreover, it urged for better auditing and that the governmental entities in charge are held responsible in case of not complying with their duties. [3] [4] [5]. The Civil Public Action of 2007against the Votorantim and Suzano companies  focused on environmental and social impacts such as contamination of water and the superficial water flow reduction [6] [7]. It was also stated that the Nobrecel company used the herbicide Scout, produced by Monsanto. After many cases of health, ecosystem and rural productions damage several social movements started a protest against the use of herbicides in the eucalyptus plantations, denouncing the monoculture expansion[2] [8]. The movements asked for the punishment of the three paper and mill industries based in the monoculture model, disrespecting the working rights, reduction of the food production and the agrochemicals use [9].

In March 2008, as a direct result of the action, a regional court of Sao Paulo State required that new crops count with an Environmental Impact Assessment prior to planting the saplings. A year later, a new court decision forbade Votorantim of cutting eucalyptus trees in the buffer zone of the Serra do Mar State Park and some areas of the Catuçaba district. The decision also prohibited the company of transporting logs through Catuçaba’s roads until carrying out an EIA and a public hearing. [10] [11]. In 2009, the Court of Justice of Taubaté again decided to stop the wood cut and transportation inside the buffer zone of the Parque Estadual da Serra do Mar (a Conservancy Unit) until the presentation of the Environmental Impact Assessment [6] [7].

 The study of Cantinho et al [4] investigated if this public decision are being respected and showed that there is a continuous expansion of the eucalyptus plantations in the area. Just like was showed for Arguello [12], where is possible to see that the permanent protected areas are not being respected too.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Eucalyptus plantations in São Luiz do Paraitinga. “Deserto Verde” in São Paulo, Brazil
State or province:São Paulo
Location of conflict:São Luiz do Paraitinga
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific commodities:Cellulose
Paper mills

Project Details and Actors

Project details

- The eucalyptus plantation covered 8,95% of the total area of the São Luiz in the 1990s (5.527 ha);

- In the following decade, the 2000s, the total area planted with eucalyptus increased to 7.836 ha or 12,7% of the total area of the municipality (Oliveira, 2011);

- Arguello (2010) showed in his study that the plantation of the eucalyptus keep forwards over preservation areas (APP – Permanent Protection Areas stablished by national law) of high declivity, rivers and stream springs and floodplains. In this study is possible to perceive that all this categories presented an increase in the eucalyptus area planted between 2000 and 2007;

- In the eucaliptus plantations there are only temporary employments.

In 2009, Fibria Celulose was created by a merger between Aracruz Celulose and Votorantim Celulose e Papel, positioned as a global leader in pulp, with production capacity exceeding six million tons of pulp and paper produced in seven factories distributed in five Brazilian states.

Project area:61,700
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:25/11/2006
Company names or state enterprises:Nobrecel from Brazil
Votorantim Group from Brazil
Suzano Papel e Celulose and Suzano Renewable Energy from Brazil
Relevant government actors:Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo (TJ/SP); Defensoria Pública do Estado (DPE); Tribunal de Taubaté.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Brazil Landless Workers’ Movement (MST); Associação de Favelas de São José dos Campos; Convergência dos Movimentos Populares da América Latina (Compal); Movimento em Defesa dos Pequenos Agricultores (MDPA)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Other Environmental impactsTOLEDO, M. H. S. O impacto da plantação extensiva de eucalipto nas culturas tradicionais: Estudo de caso de São Luis do Paraitinga, SP. Cadernos IHUideias, ano 10, n. 167, 2012. Available at: ttp://
DE LA TORRE, W. G. Ação Civil Pública com Pedido de Liminar. Taubaté: Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo. Defensoria Regional de Taubaté, 2008. Available at:
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsDE LA TORRE, W. G. Ação Civil Pública com Pedido de Liminar. Taubaté: Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo. Defensoria Regional de Taubaté, 2008. Available at:
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Displacement
Potential: Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impacts"The narratives often mentioned the following points: that "eucalyptus dries the water"; the abrupt change in the landscape; damage to local roads; the lack of economic benefits for the municipality; water contamination caused by herbicides; concern with what could be produced on lands once the eucalyptus was removed; and isolation among rural inhabitants." (15)


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:Some of the court decisions carried some minor victories for the plaintiffs. However, eucalyptus cultivation is still rising, reaching more than 10% of some municipalities total croplands' area. It seems some municipalities have issued specific legislation on eucalyptus cultivation lands, and others have simply prohibited it. The majority, however, still does very little to stop its growth.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The project of expansion of the eucalyptus plantations wasn stopped for now (by the Justice - as result of several process that have been promoted by the social movement and victims [2] ), but as several academic researchers have shown, the expansion of the plantations continues [4,11,12].

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

TJ-SP suspende plantio de eucalipto no interior de SP,tj-sp-suspende-plantio-de-eucalipto-no-interior-de-sp,137906

Civil Public Action of the Public Ministry in the state of São Paulo

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

FARINACI, J.S. 2012. As novas matas do estado de São Paulo: um estudo multiescalar sob a perspectiva da teoria da transição

(15) Ambiente & Sociedade. Ambient. soc. vol.16 no.2 São Paulo Apr./June 2013.

Forest transition and ecological modernization: eucalyptus forestry beyond good and bad. Juliana Sampaio Farinaci; Leila da Costa Ferreira; Mateus Batistella

[1] BRANDÃO, C. Partilha da Vida. São Paulo: Cabral Editora, 1995

[2] TOLEDO, M. H. S. O impacto da plantação extensiva de eucalipto nas culturas tradicionais: Estudo de caso de São Luis do Paraitinga, SP. Cadernos IHUideias, ano 10, n. 167, 2012.

[3] Silveira, P. C. B. Etnografia da paisagem: natureza, cultura e hibridismo em São Luiz do Paraitinga. Dissertação (Mestrado). Campinas: UNICAMP, 2008

[4] Cantinho, R. Z.; Salgado, M. P. G.; Batista, G. T. Análise da expansão do eucalipto no município de São Luis do Paraitinga, SP, Brasil. Anais XV Simpósio Brasileiro de Sensoriamento Remoto - SBSR, Curitiba, PR, Brasil, 30 de abril a 05 de maio de 2011, INPE.

[5] Veiga, D. A Recriação e (re) produção camponesa em São Luiz do Paraitinga- SP. Reencuentro de saberes territoriales latinoamericanos, Perú, 2013.






[11] OLIVEIRA, L. E. A expansão da monocultura do eucalipto e as implicações socioambientais no Município de São Luis do Paraitinga: Um estudo de caso. Dissertação (Mestrado). Programa de Pós Graduação em Planejamento Urbano e Regional da UNIVAP. São José dos Campos: 2011.

[12] Arguello, F. V. P. Expansão do eucalipto no trecho paulista da bacia hidrográfica Paraíba do Sul. 2010. 79 p. Dissertação (Mestrado), Programa de Pós-graduação em Ciências Ambientais of the Taubaté University. Taubaté, 2010.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

DE LA TORRE, W. G. Ação Civil Pública com Pedido de Liminar. Taubaté: Defensoria Pública do Estado de São Paulo. Defensoria Regional de Taubaté, 2008.

Eucalipto avança em São Luiz do Paraitinga e gera reações

TOLEDO, M. H. S. O impacto da plantação extensiva de eucalipto nas culturas tradicionais: Estudo de caso de São Luis do Paraitinga, SP. Cadernos IHUideias, ano 10, n. 167, 2012.

SP - Eucalipto no Vale do Paraíba, região leste do Estado de São Paulo, está causando graves danos ambientais e êxodo rural

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

O Saci e o Eucalipto (POETRY)

Proibição de monocultura de eucalipto – Carta Aberta à população de São Luís do Paraitinga, SP

Votorantim e Suzano minimizam impactos sobre São Luis do Paraitinga

Transporte de eucaliptos é proibido em distrito de São Luiz do Paraitinga

Eucalyptus plantation surrounding the São Luiz do Paraitinga municipality

Other comments:Poetry related to the environmental damage produced by the expansion of the eucalyptus plantations
"É o tal de eucalipto
Planta que não é daqui
Uma mata silenciosa
Que acabou com tudo ali
Os macacos foram embora
Até o mico e o sagüi
Que saudade do sabiá
Do sanhaço e o bem-te-vi"

Meta information

Contributor:Natalia D. Tadeu, University of São Paulo (GovAmb - USP) and Grettel Navas (EnvJustice)
Last update25/02/2018



Rural property surrounded for eucalyptus

Rural property sorrounded for eucalyptus, when the poisoning by herbicides applied in the eucalyptus occurred (Picture by: Marcelo Toledo)