Bad news for Brazil

by Dan Ryan

As environmentalists feared the rate of Amazon destruction rose steeply in the last few months of 2007.

This sad news comes only a few months after interim reports showed the rate of destruction had slowed for the third consecutive year. But, as predicted by many, this hope was short lived.

In August 2007 the Amazon lost 243 sq km (94 sq miles), but by December it reached the alarming figure of 948 sq km (366 sq miles).

As the price of soya soars more and more pressure is put on this fragile ecosystem. The seemingly endless expanse of forest is seen by farmers as a source of cheap land to make the most of this boom in prices. It is a sad indictment of the times where short term market forces dictate the survival of a great forest and its inhabitants.

But it could get worse. The environment ministry has warned the true figures could be almost double this as more detailed satellite images are studied. The worst affected state was Mato Grosso, which contributed more than half the cleared area, with Para and Rondonia also suffering badly.

Although the news will bring embarrassment to the Brazilian government, who said work on illegal logging and land certification was reducing clearance, it will hit this iconic ecosystem even harder.

forest clearance