December 1, 2008
Amazon Rainforest Disappearing
Brazilian officials say the destruction of the Amazon rainforest has accelerated for the first time in four years; the government said the figure could have been a lot worse if it had not taken action against illegal logging.
In recent years the Brazilian government has been able to celebrate three successive falls in deforestation.
But satellite images show 11,968 sq km of land was cleared this year, nearly 4% higher than the year before, according to the National Institute for Space Research, known as INPE, which shows that this trend has come to a halt.
Farmers were tempted to clear more land because of high commodity prices.
Gilberto Camara of the INPE said they would have liked better news.
"We believe it is a setback, but we believe it is also positive in the sense that the expected levels were much higher," Camara said.
"There was a lot of burning on the ground in the second half of 2007, which could have led to a much greater increase in deforestation."
In late 2007 and early 2008 there were signs that deforestation was on the rise again, so the government announced a series of measures to stop illegal logging, including a major operation involving police and environmental inspectors known as the "Arc of Fire."
Brazil's Environment Minister, Carlos Minc, said that without the program the losses could have been much higher.
"Many had expected an increase of 30-40% and we managed to stabilize it," Minc said.
He noted that the government was still not satisfied.
"We want to lower numbers even more. We want zero deforestation."
Environmental groups will be watching the situation carefully to see if the resources needed to protect the Amazon region are in place.
Image Caption: A river scene in the Amazon Rainforest, Amazon river - Salinopolis - Para - Brazil. Courtesy Cesar Paes Barreto - Wikipedia
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