Sat, Jan 26, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Brazil seeking to combat Amazonian deforestation

GOING, GOING The Brazilian government said that up to 7,000km2 of forest was cleared from August through last month, spurred by high prices for crops and cattle


Brazil will combat rising deforestation in the Amazon by sending extra federal police and environmental agents to areas where illegal clearing of the rain forest jumped dramatically last year, officials said on Thursday.

Authorities will monitor the areas in an attempt to prevent anyone from trying to plant crops or raise cattle there, Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva said.

The new measures were announced after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called an emergency meeting of Cabinet ministers because new data showed an apparent reversal of a three-year slowdown in the Amazon deforestation rate.

The clearing of Brazil's Amazon rain forest jumped in the final months of last year, spurred by high prices for corn, soy and cattle.

Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes said Latin America's largest nation has plenty of available land for farming and cattle that has already been deforested. Environmentalists fear sugarcane, used here to produce ethanol, could spread through the rain forest, but most ethanol operations are in southern Brazil far from the Amazon.

"It's not necessary to cut a single tree to produce soy or raise cattle," Stephanes said. "There's plenty of land outside of the Amazon to increase the production of soy and beef."

The government says its new push to stop deforestation is different than previous efforts because farmers will now be targeted as well as loggers.

The government will target 36 areas that registered the highest rates of deforestation, environmental officials said. Officials will try to fine people or businesses who buy anything produced on illegally deforested land, the environment minister said.

The plan means a 25 percent increase in the police force assigned to the region, though Justice Minister Tarso Genro did not say how many officers will take part.

Farmers working deforested land in the targeted area will also be forced to reregister holdings with government officials to prove their holdings were not illegally cleared, and there will be no new permits for logging.

On Wednesday, the environment ministry announced that up to 7,000km2 of rain forest was cleared from August through last month.

That puts Brazil on course to lose 15,000km2 for the year ending in August -- a 34 percent increase from the previous 12-month period.

Although preliminary calculations can only prove that 3,333km2 of rain forest were cleared from August through last month, ministry executive secretary Joao Paulo Capobianco said officials are working under the assumption that the higher amount of jungle was cleared as they continue analyzing satellite data.

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