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Brazilian Carlos Perez, a conservation scientist
"We could see the Amazon becoming a major fragmented landscape"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 11:58 GMT
Brazil to re-examine Amazon project
Workers in Amazon
Scientists warn of consequences if Amazon deforestation continues
The Brazilian government says it is prepared to make changes to a development programme which critics say would have a catastrophic impact on the Amazon.


Brazil needs an integrated strategy for the Amazon, which considers economic and social development without destroying nature

World Wildlife Fund
The government has promised to assess the impact on the Amazon rain forest, after scientists warned that the world's largest remaining wilderness could vanish within two decades.

It says it will carry out an environmental impact study of all projects envisaged in the scheme, in a move that could appease environmentalists.

Joao Paulo Silveira, who is in charge of the scheme at the Development Ministry, promised that if enviromental damage is feared, the project would be altered.

Debate

The announcement came after an article in the US journal Science warned of dire consequences if Amazon deforestation continues unabated.

Rainforest destruction
If the Amazon disappears, so will much of its biodiversity
The debate gathered further steam as the environmental group World Wildlife Fund issued a statement urging sustainable development for the Amazon.

"Brazil needs an integrated strategy for the Amazon, which considers economic and social development without destroying nature", the WWF said, proposing the adoption of strict zones in the Amazon setting limits on the growth of towns.

Under the scheme, the Brazilian Government expects to spend $40bn over the next seven years on highways, railways, hydroelectric projects and housing in the Amazon basin.

Predictions

In the Science article, researchers from Oregon and Michigan State Universities estimate that barely five percent of the Amazon will survive as pristine forest by 2020.

The rest will be destroyed by logging, infrastructure, oil exploration and new towns.

Scientific forecasts:
42% of the region would either be totally deforested or heavily degraded by 2020
Less than 5% of the land will survive as pristine forest
The rate of forest destruction could increase by more than 25% a year
The most favourable scenario predicts a 14%-a-year escalation of deforestation
According to the article, the Amazon rain forest, an area seven times the size of France is home to up to 30% of the planet's animal and plant life.

One of the researchers, Scott Bergen of Oregon State University, believes that if the Amazon disappears, so will much of its biodiversity.

Researchers say it is not too late to preserve at least some of the world's greatest tropical rainforest, at the same time as pursuing economic development in Brazil.

Dissenters say the obsession with saving the Amazon forest represents an scientifically unjustified Northern agenda that would have the effect of denying indigenous peoples economic growth and prosperity.

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See also:

14 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Amazon forest loss estimates double
14 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Brazilian greens hail Amazon delay
12 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Amazon tree loss continues
19 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Amazon logging deal agreed
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