Brazil saves Amazon

The Brazilian government has announced a package in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility to preserve the Amazon rainforest, tripling the area under protection.

The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, the greatest source of freshwater, measuring 8 million kilometres square, the size of the European Continent, except Russia, constituting one third of the planet’s tropical forest. There are still a great number of endemic species to be discovered, while those already registered are at least 350 species of mammals, such as panthers, sloth, tapirs, rodents, marmosets and other primates.

There are 950 species of birds and 2,000 species of freshwater fish, 2.5 million species of insect and many thousands of species of plants. It is this richness which is the Amazon’s greatest enemy. It is also the home of many types of exotic woods, like mahogany, but also plants which are useful for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Having been systematically shrunk over the years, by burning areas sometimes as large as Belgium, the Amazon protection groups have been raising the alarm, claiming that if the current process continues, the forest may enter a process of no return, with the cutting of trees allowing in enough sunlight to dry out the soil, starting an irreversible deforestation and desertification process.

However, a new initiative by the government of Brazil, together with the World Wildlife Fund, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, is set to triple the area under protection. The programme is called ARPA (Areas Protegidas da Amazonia, Protected Areas of the Amazon), which will cover 500,000 square kilometres and 23 eco-regions. This is an important step towards blocking the interest of great economic powers which want to develop the exploration process in the still undiscovered heartland of the forest, home also to a number of endemic tribes.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso declared that “Brazil gives an example of the conciliation of environmental and social priorities”, tellingly on the eve of the presidential elections, when such initiatives are customarily launched by the right-wing governments which have ruled Brazil since democracy was restored in the 1980s.


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