Palm oil encroaching on protected areas in Chiapas, Mexico, driving “clandestine” deforestation

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Illegal oil palm development is playing a leading role in deforestation in the Mexican state of Chiapas, according to a government source interviewed by a reporter for Mongabay.

A source from the Chiapas government told the environmental news website that the principal cause of the destruction of the state’s forests are illegal clearances by “clandestine businesses” working at night.

Chiapas is both the most biodiverse state in Mexico and its biggest palm oil producer, responsible for 70 percent of the country’s total output.

Four of the palm nurseries established in Chiapas are the biggest in Latin America, according to the Institute for the Promotion of Tropical Agriculture.

The state’s Rural Secretariat has voiced its ambition to expand palm oil to cover at least 100,000 hectares.

Palm oil plantations have already displaced primary forest in Chiapas, according to Leon Avila, a palm oil specialist at the Intercultural University of Chiapas who has investigated the crop’s expansion. He told Mongabay that plantations have encroached on one of the state’s eight protected areas, the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.