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Brazilian Jungle Dying Out More Quickly – 8,000 Football Fields A Day

RIO DE JANEIRO (dpa) – The Amazon jungle – the green lung of the earth – is in dire straits. Ten years after the Rio Summit the forest is dying as quickly as ever, despite all the good intentions expressed and the conservation projects set up.

According to a study by the Brazilian conservation authorities (IBGE), which will be presented at the end of this month at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (Rio + 10) in Johannesburg, an average 18,600 square kilometres of the South American jungle have been destroyed annually since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

The rate of destruction has recently risen to 20,000 square kilometres a year, or the equivalent of 8,000 football fields a day.

“The tempo of the destruction is horrifying. If things carry on like this, there will be no rain forest left one day,” Flavio Bolliger of the IBGE Geoscience department says.

And the president of the respected environmental group Friends of the Earth (Amigos da Terra), Alberto Smeraldi, holds the government in Brasilia at least partly responsible.

“They react with sporadic inspections and laws that nobody respects,” he says.

The head of the Greenpeace Amazon Campaign, Paulo Adario, highlights the impact of the “timber mafia” and forest clearances on fauna as well as flora.

Some 80,000 small farmers have been settled in the last four years as part of agricultural reforms, and their slash and burn methods have had a considerable negative effect on the environment of the jungle animals.

“In Para state alone there are many animal species threatened with extinction, such as the ant bear, spider monkey, species of caiman and the jaguar,” he says.

Adario is currently under police protection because he has received a series of death threats.

Nevertheless, even the government’s most vociferous critics acknowledge recent progress. In December mahogany and other jungle hardwoods were at last placed under strict protection for the first time by the authorities in Brazilia.

Licences for their exploitation will from now on only be issued under social and ecological criteria – a step Greenpeace has hailed as “a huge historic success”.

Greenpeace had earlier revealed that logging companies had expanded their illegal activities to take in nature conservation areas and reserves set up for the indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Brazilians were being exploited, the environmental organization said, describing how they would receive just 20 dollars for a mahogany tree that would fetch as much as 6,000 dollars when sold.

A large-scale jungle surveillance system was inaugurated in July with the help of a 1.5 billion dollar progamme aimed at monitoring land use and controlling the activities of traffickers in drugs, weapons, timber and gold.

The IBGE also notes that Brazil has increased the number of its national parks protecting the jungle from 197 in 1990 to 230. And carbon dioxide emissions have fallen from 10,800 tons in 1997 to 8,500 tons in 2000.

In Rio in 1992, delgates to the conference could only agree on a non-binding declaration on the world’s forests, but the Project to Protect the Rainforests (PPG7), financed by the developed world, is regarded as an example to follow.

PPG7 aims by non-bureaucratic means to promote the sustained development of remote and isolated small settlements. The scheme was launched at the Houston G7 summit in July 1990.

In cooperation with companies, government bodies and non- governmental organizations, the borders of areas provided for indigenous peoples have been marked out and numerous projects for environmentally sustainable development of natural resources instituted.

These include the harvesting of the hearts of palm trees, nuts, alternative kinds of timber, as well as supervising and preventing tree-felling, deforestation and pollution.

Global companies like Body Shop, which buys oils from the Amazon from indigenous communities to make its products, and Pirelli, which uses rubber from the jungle for its tyre production, are supporting these projects.

“PPG7 has made a considerable contribution to the creation and strengthening of regional environmental organizations, and we will soon be able to report tangible successes,” programme coordinator Marcio Santilli says.

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