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 user 2008-01-21 at 11:58:00 am Views: 60
  • #19048

    Pressures build on Amazon jungle
    Amazon is not just a precious resource for Brazil but for the entire
    world, and the year ahead seems likely to produce important indications
    of what the future holds for this vast rainforest.The scale of the
    challenge is widely acknowledged.

    the past 40 years, close to 20% of the Amazon has been cut down.Land
    cleared for cattle is the leading cause of deforestation, while the
    growth in soya bean production is becoming increasingly significant.
    Illegal logging is also a factor.Deforestation and forest fires are now
    responsible for nearly 75% of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.In the
    past three years the Brazilian government has celebrated a 59% cut in
    the rate of deforestation, but there are now signs of problems ahead.

    December, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said there had
    been a 10% increase in deforestation between August and November 2007
    and announced a range of measures to try to stem this.The president
    signed a decree imposing fines for buying or trading goods such as beef
    or soya planted illegally on deforested properties.Several hundred
    federal police are to be sent to the area to help combat environmental
    destruction, joining more than 1,600 inspectors already there.In recent
    years the government says it has carried out numerous inspections,
    seized more than one million cubic metres of wood, cancelled thousands
    of land registrations and arrested hundreds of people, as well as
    creating large conservation areas.At the United Nations Conference on
    Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia, last month, Brazil also announced
    the creation of a voluntary fund to protect the Amazon, due to be
    launched in 2008.

    Growing concern
    On a broader international
    front, it was also agreed at Bali that forest conservation would be
    included in discussions about a future agreement on global warming.The
    new measures may be a sign of growing government concern, and it will
    only become clear in the months ahead just how effective they will
    prove to be in the struggle to protect the Amazon.Environmental groups,
    while welcoming the government’s efforts, say the response is simply
    not good enough.Critics had already warned that recent falls in
    deforestation could be explained by a drop in market prices for
    products such as soya and meat, and that once these rose again land
    clearance would start to increase.”We have a national plan to fight
    deforestation that, historically, was a good plan on paper but lacked
    implementation both due to political will and due to resources,” said
    Marcelo Furtado, campaigns director for Greenpeace in Brazil.”Although
    the government could celebrate in recent years a decrease in
    deforestation, the fact is that structurally this didn’t change.”The
    environment ministry still lacks funding. You still have situations
    where the police don’t have a helicopter to fly over a certain area or
    there is no fuel in the truck to go to verify if an area is being
    deforested or not. You still have a problem with availability of maps,”
    Mr Furtado said.”The tools to decrease deforestation and monitor
    implementation of the law are still not good enough.”

    Frontier mentality
    concern is reflected by John Carter, director of Alianca da Terra, a
    group that promotes environmental awareness in land management.Mr
    Carter, however, has a different perspective on the causes and how the
    problem needs to be addressed.”Most of the environmental groups are
    concentrating on the law and why the law is not being upheld and they
    mysteriously forget this is a frontier and no-one ever upheld the law
    in any frontier in Europe or the United States, anywhere,” he says.He
    believes giving producers incentives to reduce the impact on the forest
    will prove more effective than traditional conservation methods.The
    results of failure can be seen in the thick smoke of forest fires being
    used to clear land.”I would easily say [2007] was one of the worst
    years I have seen in 11 years living here,” said Mr Carter, who was
    born in the US but moved here with his Brazilian wife.”I flew with
    several different people at several different times in September and
    October and I couldn’t see the end of my wings, I couldn’t see the
    ground.”I tried to land in the Xingu park [in Mato Grosso]… I
    couldn’t… I couldn’t see the runway. I was flying 300 ft (91m) above
    the forest and couldn’t even see it.”

    Lima, a senior official at the environment ministry with responsibility
    for the Amazon says it will be difficult to keep deforestation in 2008
    down to the level achieved in 2007, especially given the growing market
    pressures.But he believes the presidential decree will force a wider
    range of people to address these concerns.”What is important to do is
    to share out responsibility for illegal deforestation,” he says.”The
    responsibility is not only with the farmers involved at the forefront,
    but it is the chain of production that buys from them as well. The big
    soya companies, the meat storage plants that have set up there and know
    there is no authorisation for deforestation in the area.”They have to
    assume a share of the responsibility.”The next few months will be a
    test of that resolve, but there seems to be a growing recognition on
    all sides that the Amazon faces another testing period.