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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 09:42 GMT
Troops sent to stem Amazon loss
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Soldier stands guard by a pile of illegally logged timber in Tailandia
Logging is a key industry in the area
Some 160 Brazilian troops have been sent to the Amazon to join hundreds of police officers involved in efforts to tackle illegal deforestation.

The move follows clashes last week when local people and sawmill workers forced environmental officials out of the town of Tailandia in the state of Para.

Officials say they do not want more confrontations but the operation against illegal logging will go on.

Deforestation in the Amazon jungle rose sharply in the second half of 2007.

The decision to send elite federal troops to the town of Tailandia to support police and environmental inspectors appears to indicate the determination of the authorities that the latest operation against illegal deforestation should not be stopped.

Last week more than 2,000 protesters blocked roads and forced inspectors to flee the town in the state of Para, before their work was completed.

With around 160 timber yards in the area providing jobs for 2,000 to 3,000 people, the logging industry is a key employer, but it is believed that more than 70% of wood felled in the area is of illegal origin.

Some 15,000 cubic metres (530,000 cubic feet) of wood has already been seized by the authorities.

The disturbances in Tailandia, which has a population of around 67,000, have been a sharp reminder of the conflict between economic development and protecting the environment - a conflict that lies at the heart of the debate about the future of the Amazon.

The Brazilian government confirmed in January that there had been a significant rise in deforestation in the last five months of 2007, although the previous three years had shown a decline.

Ministers promised firmer action against illegal logging, with more police on the ground, more inspections and more fines, but the disturbances in Tailandia have shown that not everyone supports this policy.

The town was established 19 years ago and in that period it is believed that as much 60% of forest in the area has been destroyed.

The Brazilian government says it is determined to press ahead with the latest crackdown, with further inspections planned for later this year on the major routes used by loggers in the Amazon.

Map of worst affected areas



SEE ALSO
Brazil raids Amazon timber mills
14 Feb 08 |  Americas
Brazil vows to stem Amazon loss
24 Jan 08 |  Americas
Brazil Amazon deforestation soars
24 Jan 08 |  Americas
Pressures build on Amazon jungle
14 Jan 08 |  Americas

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