Wed, Oct 01, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Deforestation in Amazon picking up speed, officials say


The Amazon is being deforested more than three times as fast as last year, Brazilian officials said on Monday, acknowledging a sharp reversal after three years of declines in the deforestation rate.

Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said upcoming nationwide elections are partly to blame, with mayors in the Amazon region turning a blind eye to illegal logging in hopes of gaining votes locally.

Environmentalists blame the global spike in food prices for encouraging soy farmers and cattle ranchers to clear land for crops and grazing.

Elections no doubt play a part, but “the tendency of deforestation rising is deeply related to the fact that food prices are going up,” said Paulo Adario, who coordinates Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign.

“When you have elections, the appetite of authorities to enforce laws is reduced,” Adario said. “But the federal government has to step in and do its job.”

Destruction of the Amazon jumped 228 percent in August when compared with the same month a year ago, according to a report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. About 760km² of the Amazon was destroyed in August, compared with 230km² in August last year.

The institute, which uses satellite imagery to track illegal logging, said the destruction was likely even worse than its figures show. No information was available for approximately 26 percent of the Amazon because of cloud cover during the month.

Also on Monday, Minc released a list of what he said were the 100 individuals or companies responsible for the most deforestation since 2005.

Leading the list was the Brazilian government’s own land and agrarian reform agency, Incra.

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