Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 18:06 UK

Cocaine use 'destroys rainforest'

Francisco Santos Calderon, Alex James, Vernon Coaker
Blur star Alex James (centre) is backing the campaign

The British and Colombian governments have launched a joint drive to highlight the environmental damage caused by cocaine use.

Colombian vice-president Francisco Santos Calderon said taking it was seen as a "victimless crime" in Europe but it was devastating his country.

Some 2.2 million hectares of rainforest had been lost to cocaine production over the last 20 years, he added.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said this was the "real price" of the drug.

'Consequences'

The two politicians were joined at the launch of the Shared Responsibility campaign in London's Trafalgar Square by Alex James, the former bassist with the pop group Blur.

Mr Calderon said: "We need to show the consequences - the consequences to human beings and also the consequences to the environment."

I don't know why we care more about monkeys dying than people dying but we do. So this is a really intelligent way of going about it
Alex James, former Blur bassist

Cocaine consumption fuels exploitation, violence and environmental damage in Colombia, the world's second most bio-diverse country, he added.

Drug barons were devastating the country's soils and water sources by using harmful or banned pesticides, Mr Calderon said.

Mr Coaker said that although drug consumption was at an 11-year low, cocaine was the only drug that had risen in use since 1998.

He said the campaign was "trying to put across the message that the real price of cocaine is not what somebody pays on the street, and not only what an individual does in the UK when they snort powder cocaine".

Mr James, a former cocaine user who recently presented a BBC Panorama documentary on the effects of the drug, backed the environmental focus of the campaign.

He said: "I don't know why we care more about monkeys dying than people dying but we do. So this is a really intelligent way of going about it."


SEE ALSO
Colombia massacre troops jailed
08 May 08 |  Americas
Cocaine found at university bars
06 May 08 |  Bristol/Somerset

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