The MST leader blamed the intensive planting of eucalyptus trees for the depletion of water sources, erosion, and the rapid deforestation of the Mata Atlântica or Atlantic Forest, the vast forest biome that once stretched along the entire Atlantic coast and has now been reduced to seven percent of its original size after centuries of agriculture and livestock activities and urbanisation.
Veracel has also been denounced for establishing plantations in areas of high environmental risk, such as hills, riverbanks and conservation areas, as well as indigenous territories. In addition, the company is accused of failing to respect the rights of workers.
Over the last few years, more than 850 lawsuits have been filed against Veracel and its subcontractors in the labor court of Eunápolis, according to a statement issued by a group of non-governmental organisations on Apr. 21, the day after the Stora Enso general shareholders assembly in Helsinki. The greatest expansion in tree plantations has taken place in the eastern states of Bahia and Espírito Santo and the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. According to 2009 figures, there were two million hectares of land in Brazil devoted to growing trees specifically for pulp and paper production, and exports in the sector totaled five billion dollars.