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The Amazon has lowest level of deforestation since 1988

28/11/2012 - 12h53

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FROM SÃO PAULO

The level of illegal deforestation in the Amazon continued to decline and registered another record-breaking low, reaching the lowest level since Inpe (National Institute of Spatial Research) began the measuring in 1988.

Between August 2011 and July 2012, 4,656 km² of forest were cut down. The figures show a 27% reduction in comparison with the previous period, which had 6,418 km² deforested.

These are the estimates of Prodes (Project of Deforestation Monitoring in the Legal Amazon), which registers the so-called close cut, when the entire forest cover in an area is removed. The final numbers will be announced in the middle of 2013, but the difference in likely to be small.

When announcing the data, the Minister of the Environment, Izabella Teixeira, commemorated the results. "I dare say that this is the only good environmental news the planet has had this year from the point of view of climate change," she said.

In absolute numbers, Pará was again the state with most deforestation, 1,699 km². That is more than twice the amount deforested in the runner up, Mato Grosso, with 777 km².

In both states, however, there was a reduction in the amount of forest cover lost in comparison with the previous period: 44% and 31%, respectively.

This measuring showed that only Acre, Amazonas and Tocantins didn't reduce deforestation.

Minister Teixeira said that all the reasons for deforestation in these states haven't been identified yet, but some points were settled.

In Amazonas, the increase in deforestation is likely to be connected to the BR-317 road, close to the city of Apuí.

IMPACT

Heron Martins, a researcher at Imazon (Institute of Man and Environment of the Amazon), an NGO that carries out independent deforestation measuring in the Legal Amazon, says the decline was already expected.

He says the all-time low is not due to a single factor, and that there were state and federal initiatives which yielded good results.

"The list of cities with the highest levels of deforestation, created by the Ministry of the Environment, had a very positive impact because it led to several restrictions on those cities," he says.

Other environmental organizations, such as the Greenpeace, also commemorated the decline, but urged caution.

NEW RISE

The numbers of another monitoring system, the Sad (Deforestation Alert System), of Imazon, show a tendency towards a new rise in deforestation in the Amazon region.

The data are from August to October 2012 --more recent than those announced by the government-- and they show a 125% jump in deforestation in comparison with the same period in 2011.
Deter, another system of Inpe, also showed an upward trend.

"But we still are at the beginning of the monitoring calendar, and there is a chance the numbers won't rise," says Heron Martins.

Along with the deforestation data, Minister Teixeira announced an improvement in inspection. With new electronic devices, inspectors will be able to delimit areas of illegal deforestation and issue a note of violation immediately.

The total cost of the project, already in the testing phase, was R$ 15 million. (GIULIANA MIRANDA)

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO