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Country experiences more evolution in economic and social indicators than in environmental ones

Section: IBGE

June 04, 2008 10h00 AM | Last Updated: October 22, 2019 05h34 PM

To reveal Brazil’s position and indicate its future path towards sustainability...


To reveal Brazil’s position and indicate its future path towards sustainability. From this objective, the Indicators of Sustainable Development 2008 (IDS 2008) show a country which, in the last few years, has had its main advances in the economic field. In social affairs, despite the improvements observed, there are still many questions to be solved;  in terms of environmental problems there are still contradictions, with evolution in some areas and retrogression in others. 


The analysis of the 60 indicators produced or gathered by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in the third edition of IDS (the previous ones date back to 2002 and 2004) shows important gains, but reveals Brazil still has a long way to go before it reaches the objective set in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission): development which can meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”. See below some of the highlights of IDS 2008.


Environmental segment: little and slow progress


With 23 indicators, categorized into to the topics atmosphere, land, water, oceans, seas and coastal areas, biodiversity and sanitation, the environmental segment of IDS shows the biggest number of indicators which are still negative or have had slow evolution. Besides the update of data published in 2004, the publication includes information about the emission of greenhouse gases, based on the inventory released in 2004 by the Brazilian government.


Among the positive indicators, it is important to highlight the reduced consumption of substances which are destructive to the ozone layer and the increase of the number of conservation units (UCs) and of Private Reserves of the Natural Patrimony (RPPNs). Fire spots also decreased between 2004 and 2006, and atmospheric pollution kept its tendency to stability, except for ozone (O3), the concentration of which has increased daily.

The pollution of rivers which cross the biggest metropolitan areas and beaches has remained at a high level, whereas amount of fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture has increased, as well as the capture of some animals which would be traded illegally.


Finally, some indicators which had been improving, such as that of the Amazon deforestation, have faced drawbacks in the latest period, probably as a consequence of economic growth itself.


Consumption of substances which are destructive to the ozone layer falls by 87% from 1992 to 2006


The consumption of substances which can destroy the ozone layer has been reduced all over the world, in a general way. In Brazil, this annual consumption (production +imports – exports) has fallen fast, surpassing even the best prospects: it fell by 87% between 1992 and 2006, with change from 11,198 to 1,431 tons of potential ozone destruction (PDO), according to data from the Ozone Center of the Ministry of the Environment.


The ozone layer is vital to the maintenance of life on the Earth, since it absorbs most of the UV rays which reach the planet. These rays are highly dangerous to live beings, and may cause illnesses such as cataract, mutations, cancers, and, depending on the level of exposure, the death of organisms. The Montreal Protocol (1987) proposed the reduction of the consumption of substances which are destructive to the ozone layer until their elimination or substitution for harmless substances.  


Quality of the air in big cities remains stable; ozone is the exception


For most of the metropolitan areas, the majority of the atmospheric pollutants present some tendency to stability or decline of the maximum and medium concentration (acute and chronic pollution, respectively), in a longer time series. Air pollution in big cities is one of the main environmental problems, with serious implications to people’s health, especially in the case of children, elderly people and those who suffer from respiratory problems.


The decline of pollutant concentration, more evident in the case of total suspended particles (PTS) and the particulate matter (PM10), is a consequence of the control of vehicular emissions, of technological changes in engines and of the improvement of fuel quality. Both polluters cause and aggravate respiratory illnesses, besides transporting toxic gases to the lungs and the bloodstream. Despite some improvement, the annual values for the concentration of these substances are still high in places such as Brasilia and the metropolitan areas of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.


The main exception to the falling trend of atmospheric pollutant concentration is ozone. In the metropolitan area of São Paulo, where the problem is even more serious, there were, in 2006, 168 violations to the maximum limit allowed by the National Council of Environment (Conama), an average of 1 violation every two days, with slight increase in relation to 2005 (158).


Heat spots fall by half between 2004 and 2006


Between 2004 and 2006, the number of heat spots, which indicate burn-offs (actions permitted by environmental organizations) and forest fires (instances of uncontrolled fire), fell from 236,014 to 117, 453, with reduction by 50%. The data are from Ibama and from the National Institute for Space Researches (Inpe).


Among the states, Amapá had the biggest reduction of heat spots between 2004 and 2006 (-78%, from 1,319 to 291), followed by Mato Grosso (-67%) and Goiás (-66%). In Rio de Janeiro, in the same period, heat spots more than doubled, changing from 158 to 323.


The spatial coverage of heat spots evidences their concentration in some areas. The longest and most recurrent area corresponds to the “Arch of Deforestation and of Burn-offs”, which encompasses the South and the East of the Legal Amazon, where burn-offs are associated to deforestation, being co-responsible for the destruction of big forests areas. Besides causing damage to biodiversity, exposure of the soil to climate changes and of the behavior of water resources, there is also the emission of greenhouses gases, especially CO2. It is believed that burn-offs account for 75% of the Brazilian emissions of CO2.


MG uses more fertilizers; SP, more pesticides per planted hectare


The amount of fertilizers traded per hectare increased significantly between 1992 and 2006 (from 69.44 to 141.41 Kg) in Brazil. Minas Gerais is the state which uses most fertilizers per hectare (249.23 kg), followed by São Paulo (214.21 kg) and Roraima (200.11 kg). On the other hand, we find Acre, Ceará and Amazonas, with, respectively, 7.41; 8.32; and 12.33 kg of fertilizers per planted hectare.


In terms of pesticides – used in pest control, combat to illnesses and weeds - there was slight increase of consumption, from 3.19 kg/ha to 3.23 kg/ha, between 2000 and 2005. In the same period, there was decrease of the use of the most toxic products. Besides being potentially venomous, pesticides tend to accumulate in the soil, fauna and flora, and their residues may reach groundwater. The state of São Paulo is the one which uses the biggest amount of pesticides per planted hectare (7.62 kg/ha, more than the twice as the national average). Amazonas is the state which uses the smallest amount of pesticides.


Pollution of rivers which cross big urban centers is still high


The quality of the water of rivers and dams is far from ideal. None of the bodies of water for which the average Water Quality Index (IQA)3 was calculated reached a considerable level (above 80). The lowest IQAs were those of the courses of the Iguaçu (31) and Tietê (30) Rivers, which cross, respectively, the metropolitan areas of Curitiba and São Paulo. The situation is also critical in the Velhas River, which crosses Belo Horizonte, in Paraguaçu River, which borders part of the area called Recôncavo Baiano, and in the Ipojuca River, which crosses the industrial cities of Pernambuco.


Brazil has 8.3% of its territory protected by conservation units


Brazil has the most complete biodiversity on the planet. To protect this patrimony, it directs an area of over 712, 660 km2 to federal conservation units (UCs). In comparison with 2003, the total of federal UCs increased from 251 to 299 in 2007. The protected area also increased (it was 522,713 in 2003) increasing the percentage of preserved area, at federal level, from 6.5% to 8.3% of the territory.


Municipal and state UCs use, except for the Environmental Protection Areas (APAs), 367,000 km2and 35,000 km2, respectively.


Among the biomes, the Amazon holds the biggest protected area, over 15% in federal conservation units, of which 6.5% era full-time conservation units (not allowing inhabitants in the place). The Caatinga, the only exclusively Brazilian biome, and the Campos Sulinos are those which have fewest conservation units.


The Amazon biome had the biggest increase of protected area between 2003 and 2007 (145.873 km2), followed by marine conservation units (5.792 km2). On the other hand, the Pantanal and Caatinga biomes did not have any change in their area protected by federal conservation units.


The number of Private Reserves of the Natural Patrimony (RPPNs) changed, between 2003 and 2006, from 366 to 429, with an increment of 4.119 km2 of protected area. The biggest increase, in territory terms, occurred in Pantanal (247 km2), although the Atlantic Forest has had a bigger number of RPPNs created (increase of 17 km2).


Capture of illegally traded mammals doubles between 2000 and 2005


Although in 2005 there was decrease of the capture of Brazilian animals which would be traded illegally, 37,742 versus 44,719 in 1999/2000, the number of mammals which were not trafficked doubled, having changed from 518 to 1,121. Concerning reptiles, there was more significant increase: from 1,462 to 8,415. In 2005, the biggest number of animals captured was captured in the Southeast (18,096) and the lowest, in the Central West (951).


he traffic of wild animals is considered to be the third main illegal trade business in the world, involving about US$ 10 billion a year. Brazil is among the principal suppliers of animals, being responsible for 10% of the world market. Traffic is estimated to take about 38 million animals from nature every year. According to Ibama, 95% of the trade of Brazilian wild animals is illegal.








Social segment: important improvements, though uneven ones, threatened by violence


The 19 indicators of this section correspond to objectives related to the fulfillment of human needs, improvement of quality of life and social justice, and are divided into the topics: population; labor and income; health; education; housing and security.


As systematically shown by IBGE’s annual surveys, Brazil has witnessed improvements in statistics of access to education, labor, income, child mortality, in the adequacy of households and in relation to the situation of women. Gains are still modest, however, in what concerns differences by color or race, and, in a general way, seem to be unevenly distributed throughout the territory, with the contrast between a better situation in the Southeast and South and poor conditions in the Northeast and North Regions.


In addition to that, the increase of deaths caused by homicides and car accidents, especially among men is the main negative highlight.


Mortality by violent causes affects the quality of life of the population


Between 1992 and 2004, there was some increment, in absolute figures, of 7.7 deaths caused by homicides for each 1,000 inhabitants in the country. The situation in the Southeast Region is particularly difficult, since, in 2004, it had the highest rate of homicides, 32.3 for 100 thousand inhabitants, above the national average (26.9 for 100 thousand).


The difference between homicide figures by sex still remains: 35.6 for 100 thousand for men and 3.2 for 100 thousand for women, in 1992, versus 50.5 and 4.2 in 2004, respectively. Among the Federative units, the highest rates, in 2004, were those of Rio de Janeiro (50.8), Pernambuco (50.1) and Espírito Santo (48.3).


Traffic accidents consist of another problem which has grown each year, affecting all socio-economic groups, mainly the poorest ones, and generating high expenses to the health system. In Brazil, in 2004, men were the main victims, with 32.6 deaths for 100 thousand inhabitants, versus 7.2 for 100 thousand women. The Central West (29.3) and South Regions (27.0) had rates above those of the national average (19.6). In the states, Mato Grosso (32.6), Santa Catarina (32.3) e Paraná (31.0) had the highest figures for deaths caused by traffic accidents in 2004.


54% of Brazilian households are considered to be in proper conditions


Adequate housing conditions – with public water supply system, sewage disposal by collecting system or septic tank, direct or indirect waste disposal and up to two dwellers per room – is one of the conditions to determine the quality of life of the population. Although this indicator has improved in the last few years, reaching 54.0% of the permanent private households in 2006, there are still significant regional differences. Whereas in the Southeast, 70% of the households are in proper conditions, in the North, this proportion falls to 23.7%. In terms of Federative Units, there also striking differences. In Amapá, only 11.7% of the households are in proper conditions, whereas in São Paulo this percentage reaches 73.5%.


Hospitalizations related to lack of sanitation indicate regional inequalities


The investigation about hospitalizations occurred in the scope of SUS (Unified Health System), caused by a group of diseases related to inadequate sanitation, such as diarrheas, camp fever, dengue, ringworms and others, reflected intra and inter regional differences, despite the number of hospitalizations all over the country, which fell from 732 persons for 100 thousand inhabitants in 1993, to 327 persons in 2005. Also in 2005, whereas in the North Region a total of 694 persons for 100 thousand inhabitants were hospitalized, in the Southeast this figure reached 127 hospitalizations for 100 thousand inhabitants. In terms of states, whereas Acre (with 997 hospitalizations for 100 thousand inhabitants) and Piauí (with 963 hospitalizations for 100 thousand inhabitants) reached over 900 hospitalizations for 100 thousand inhabitants, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro had 98 and 112 hospitalizations for 100 thousand inhabitants, respectively.


Economic segment: advance brings benefits, but requires attention


Growth of GDP, lower indebtedness, a favorable commercial balance, higher investment rates, increase of the participation of renewable sources in energy and increase of recycling are some of the good news brought by the 12 indicators which refer to the macroeconomic and financial performance of the country and to the effects of the consumption of material in the production and management of waste and use of energy.


Being organized according to the topics economic scenario and production and consumption patterns, they show, however, that the expenditure of energy has grown again in the country, and that there are not permanent areas to send nuclear waste, and also, that the reuse of domestic waste is more related to its financial relevance in the budget of families than to any change of environmental conscience towards the practices of selective collection and recycling.


Consumption of energy per capita increases again from 2002 to 2006


The final consumption of energy per capita increased again, changing from 45.5 GJ/inhab (Gigajoules by inhabitant) in 2002 to 49.1 GJ/inhab in 2006, as a consequence of the generation of energy, especially in the technical generation of natural gas – an energetic source which contributes to the rise of emission of greenhouse gases. In 1992, consumption of energy per capita was 39.3 GJ/inhab.


Brazil does not have a permanent destination for radioactive waste


Even though Brazil produces 13,775 m3 of radioactive waste, it does not have a permanent destination for its radioactive waste; the only exception is the area in Abadia de Goiás, containing the waste of the accident with Cesium-137, which happened in Goiânia, in 1987. The ideal place for the construction of a permanent place for the waste from Angra I and II nuclear plants is still unknown.


The radioactive waste produced in the country is stored, temporarily, at the Institute of Energy and Nuclear Researches (Ipen), in São Paulo, at the Institute of Nuclear Energy (IEN), in Rio, and at the Center for the development of Nuclear Technology (CDTN), in Minas Gerais, all of which are connected to Cnen (National Commission of Nuclear Energy). The main producer of this type of waste is the state of São Paulo, which accounts for 36% of the material sent to the storage areas of Cnen, followed by Rio de Janeiro (19%) and Bahia (18%).


Participation of renewable sources in energy increases from 41% to 45.1%


After a period of almost continuous reduction of the participation of renewable sources in the energy supply of Brazil, there was, between 2002 and 2006, increase from 41% to 45.1% of its relative participation in Brazilian energy obtention. Increase in four types of renewable sources of energy contributed to this result: hydraulic and electricity (from 14.0% to 14.8%), sugarcane derivatives (from 12.6% to 14.6%), firewood and charcoal (from 11.9% to 12.6%) and other renewable primary sources (from 2.5% to 3.0%). In this period, the use of non-renewable sources decreased from 59% to 54.9%, with reductions in all sources, except natural gas (from 7.5% to 9.6%).


Recycling of aluminum cans increases from 50.0% in 1993 to 94.4% in 2006


The most commonly recycled material in Brazil is aluminum, 94.4%, due to its high value in the market, and the high amount of energy used to produce aluminum metallic aluminum (raw material of the cans). Concerning paper, glass, PET packages and steel cans, recycling indexes ranged from 45% to 50%. For carton packages, for which recycling processes are more recent, figures are lower (about 20%), although also growing ones.


In the period 1993-2006, the recycling index of aluminum cans almost doubled, having changed from 50.0% to 94.4%, whereas the recycling of paper (from 38.8% to 45.4%) and of glass (from 25% to 45.0%) increased at a lower rate.


The price rises of raw material and energy, together with a very strict legislation, may cause recycling indexes of all types of material to remain on a growing trend in the long run.


Institutional segment: efforts are still beginning


The six indicators of IDS 2008 which refer to political orientation, capacity and effort made by governments and by the society in the implementation of the necessary changes for the development of sustainable development show that, although there is some effort by the government to establish and reinforce environmental treaties and important improvements of the access of telephone and Internet services, there is still few workers.


The country makes few investments in Research & Development and, although municipalities are in charge of the biggest part of investments related to environment protection, most of them do not have environmental councils yet – they lack essential elements to form the structure of a national environmental policy.


Expenditure with R&D in Brazil does not reach 1% of the GDP


IDS 2008 shows that in 2000 and 2004, respectively, national investments in Research and Development (R&D) made up 0.94% and 0.83% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country, which corresponded to R$ 11.1 billion in 2000 and to R$ 16.1 billion in 2004.


The expenditure with R&D in 2004 was distributed as follows: R$ 9,329.10 (0.48% of the GDP) came from the government; and R$ 6,217.30 (0.35% of the GDP) were company expenditure. The majority of public investments (R$ 6,418.10) were made by federal organizations; states accounted for R$ 2,911.00.


Municipalities have the highest proportional expenditure with environment protection


Between 1996 and 2004, it was in the municipalities that the public expenditure with environment protection had the biggest proportional increases, having changed from 0.4% to 1.1% of the overall municipal expenditure. In the same period, federal public expenditure with the environment remained between 0.3% and 0.4%, whereas state expenditure changed from 0.6% to 0.8%. In absolute figures, in the same period, the total public expenditure with the environment in the country increased from R$ 1.5 billion to R$ 2.6 billion.


Almost 67% of the high school institutions in the country had Internet access in 2005


As a system of information dissemination, the Internet creates new opportunities for the generation and/or increase of knowledge. In general, the bigger the access to the web, the highest the possibilities for the population to be well-informed, even in what concerns strategies aimed at sustainable development, facilitating their support and bigger participation in the decision-making process.

In 2005, 13.7% of the Brazilian households, 20% of the elementary education institutions and 66.8% of the high school institutions had Internet access. In 2004, the biggest percentages of households and schools of both levels of education with Internet access were found in the Southeast (respectively 18.9%, 42.2% and 80.7%). São Paulo had the highest percentage of high school institutions connected to the Internet (97.5%), but the Federal District was the leader in terms of households (28.6%) and elementary schools (81.5%).




1 The IDS 2008 data go up to 2006, indicating that, until that year, there was increase of the rhythm of tree cutting down, even because the official data for the Prodes project with the deforestation rates of the Amazon are not available yet. However, recent data from the National Institute for Space Researches and of the Ministry of the Environment, generated by the Deter project (Detection of Deforestation at Real Time), point to new increase of deforested area. 


2 Included in the annexes of the Montreal Protocol are: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), trichloroacetic acid (TCA), halons, Carbon Tetra Chloride (CTC), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), methyl bromide, among others.


3 IQA is obtained from a mathematical formula which uses as variables the temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, the biochemical oxygen demand, the amount of fecal matter, nitrogen, phosphorous and total residues dissolved and the turbidity of water. The highest the IQA, the better the quality of the water.