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» Environment » Amazon

Amazon Forest - Future



In its issue of the 19th of January this year a study on the future of the Brazilian Amazon was published in Science Magazine, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This study has been partially reproduced in the British press. Some of the information contained in it is not new and is the object of considerable controversy among the scientific community.

With respect to some of the data and information quoted in the study, it is important to note that:

1. According to information provided by INPE (National Institute
for Space Research) which ensures the monitoring of the Amazon by satellite, the deforestation rate of recent years has been:
95 to 96 = 1.8 million ha
96 to 97 = 1.3 million ha
97 to 98 = 1.7 million ha
98 to 99 = 1.7 million ha
These figures are available at the INPE site:

2. The deforestation of 1.7 million ha. and not 2 million ha as mentioned in the article corresponds to around 0.4% of the forest coverage. If the same rate of deforestation continues for the next 20 years, which is highly unlikely, taking into account the series of measures in place to protect the forest, the loss would amount to 8%.

3. The projection by Professor Laurance does not seem to have a sound basis since it takes into account the experience of the last 25 years when none of the different policies now adopted was in place.

4. It is also important to keep in mind that since the discovery of Brazil, the destruction of the rain forest amounts to around 14 % and the yearly rate has been decreasing. In 1994-95 for instance, the deforestation rate had reached 2.9 million ha. Such a decrease is the result of important programmes of international cooperation, such as the PPG7 ( Pilot Program to Protect the Brazilian Rain Forests) and in particular to very strict measures adopted by the Brazilian Government.

5. A projection by the Ministry for Science and Technology, adding the overall deforestation of the Amazon since colonial times of 600 thousand square kilometres to the worst-case scenario of deforestation in the next 20 years of 340 thousand square kilometres, would mean a hypothetical and overall deforestation rate of 25%, a totally unlikely scenario and quite below the projected rate reached by Science Magazine (42%).

6. With reference to Avança Brasil, the development programme mentioned in the study, it is worth noting that the overall investment foreseen for the Amazon from 2000 to 2007 amounts to some $12 billion, not $40 billion. Furthermore, the $12 billion include a series of sectors such as social development, information and environment. The preservation of the environment, particularly of the rain forest, is a top priority for Avança Brasil. Infrastructure accounts for no more than US$ 8 billion. The paving of roads involves only a fraction of this amount. That is to say, nothing comparable to the $40 billion referred to in the article.

7. In the area of infrastructure, no new road is planned, only the paving of existing roads, such as Road no. 319 which was mentioned. Information on Avança Brasil is available on

8. It is important to remember that there are about 17 million people living in the Amazon region. These people need supplies of energy, of water, sanitation and telecommunications.

9. With reference to the carbon off-setting funds foreseen in the Kyoto Protocol – another topic featured in the study - Brazil is a pioneer country in the development of demonstration projects in this area, despite the fact that the Clean Development Mechanism has not yet been fully regulated in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Brazil signed a pioneer memorandum of understanding with British partners for that purpose. Brazil accepts the inclusion of reforestation and aforestation in the Clean Development Mechanism, but not of native forests, because such an inclusion might frustrate the purpose of the Kyoto Protocol, which is the reduction of gas emissions. A similar approach is adopted by the European Union.

The necessary revision of the data and facts mentioned in the Science Magazine article does not mean that the issue of road construction in the Amazon region is not a serious matter to be carefully considered. In this respect, the Ministry of Planning in Brazil has already begun a thorough review of the impact of Avança Brasil projects on the environment.

6th February 2001

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posted on 19th January 2001


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