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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
$30m plan to protect rainforest
Brazilian public opinion is changing
By Brazil Correspondent Stephen Cviic

An international environmental agency says it has raised $30m for a plan to preserve 10% of Brazil's Amazon rainforest.

The agency, the Global Environment Facility, says the area to be set aside will be among the most strictly protected land in the history of nature conservation.

The plan, which was originally announced two years ago, will also receive a total of $23m from the Brazilian Government and the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

Brazil is home to the world's largest rainforest, and although international reports of its demise have sometimes been exaggerated, there is no doubt that it is steadily being eaten away by farmers, ranchers and loggers.

International interest

The Brazilian Government has already created reserves for indigenous people and nature conservation, and some of this land will be incorporated into the new larger scheme.

Burnt trees
Deforestation can be devastating for wildlife
Preserving 10% of the rainforest may not sound like much, but if it is done properly, it will make a difference, since the areas to be protected would also be home to a large number of bird, mammal and reptile species.

The Global Environment Facility is an agency which gets its funding from 30 member governments, a sign of continuing international interest in the preservation of the Brazilian Amazon.

The Facility's chairman, Dr Mohamed El-Ashry, says the money will make the new Amazon reserve one of the most strictly protected regions in conservation history.

Indigenous people

He told the BBC: "The new project¿involves enough funding for the management and for the monitoring and surveillance to ensure that no encroachment and no major actions like logging and mining are taking place illegally in these areas.

"In practice, there will be people who will be hired as park rangers. The indigenous people themselves will also be trained to ensure that they can report the encroachments that could happen on a larger scale."

Inside Brazil, public opinion is now more concerned about the fate of the Amazon than it used to be.

The present government has improved its monitoring of forest fires and introduced new heavier fines for environmental crimes.

But the rate of deforestation is still high and on Wednesday, the farmers' lobby scored a big victory in congress when a parliamentary commission approved a proposal reducing the amount of forest that individual landowners are obliged to preserve.

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12 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Amazon tree loss continues
11 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Amazon fires burn more fiercely
19 Nov 98 | Sci/Tech
Sky spy spots climate crises
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