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Amazon Deforestation Rate Up 40% in Brazil

An area slightly smaller than Massachusetts was cut down last year. The rise alarms activists.

June 27, 2003|From Reuters

BRASILIA, Brazil — The deforestation rate in Brazil's Amazon, the world's largest jungle, jumped 40% last year, sparking alarm among environmentalists and a promise by the government Thursday to launch emergency measures.

"This is shocking," Mario Monzoni, a project coordinator for the Friends of the Earth group in Brazil, said Thursday. "The rate of deforestation should be falling, instead the opposite is happening."

Preliminary figures from the Environment Ministry, released late Wednesday, showed deforestation in the Amazon jumped to 9,840 square miles last year -- the highest since 1995 -- up from 7,010 square miles in 2001.

"We are going to take emergency action to deal with this highly worrying rise in deforestation," Environment Minister Marina Silva told reporters Thursday, promising the announcement of measures next week. The area cut down was slightly smaller than Massachusetts.

A former maid who comes from the Amazon, Silva said the government is considering real-time monitoring of deforestation and, for the first time in Brazil, requiring all ministries to consider the environment when enacting policies.

The Amazon, an area of vast tropical forest that is about two-thirds the size of the United States, has been described as the "lungs of the world" because of its capacity to produce oxygen.

Environmentalists fear the effects of the jungle's destruction because it is home to up to 30% of the planet's animal and plant species and is an important source of medicines. Most of the deforestation takes place due to burning and logging to create farms.

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