Record Amazon deforestation in Brazil

Thu, Jan 24, 2008, 00:00

The Brazilian government has announced a record rate of deforestation in the Amazon only months after hailing progress in achieving a reduction.

The destruction of the Amazon forest surged over the last five months of 2007, according to the Brazilian government.

Deforestation in the Amazon shot up from 94 square miles (243sq km) in August to 366 square miles (948sq km) in December. That is four times as much as in the same period of 2004, the government said. It did not provide comparative data for 2005 or 2006.

The region is known as "the lungs of the world" for its ability to consume greenhouse gases and produce oxygen.

"We've never before detected such a high deforestation rate at this time of year," Gilberto Camara, the head of the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), which provides satellite imaging of the area, said.

Between August and December, 1,250 square miles (3,235sq km) of the world's largest rain forest was lost, and environment ministry officials said that preliminary figure was likely to double as satellite images with higher resolution are analysed.

Only a few months ago, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva boasted about how Brazil managed to reduce deforestation by 50 per cent in the two years through July 2007.

The government had said that policies such as more controls on illegal logging and better certification of land ownership were reducing the deforestation that has destroyed about a fifth of the forest - an area bigger than France - since the 1970s.