Despite new measures to curb destruction of the world's largest rainforests in the Amazon basin, deforestation has increased by 30 per cent. Preliminary figures from satellite monitoring showed 16,800 sq km of forests -- more than the size of Belgium -- was cleared last year. That was 27 per cent higher than in 1997 but slightly lower than in 1996. This was stated by the environment ministry of Brazil. Since 1972, an estimated 532,086 sq km of forests have been destroyed. This is equivalent to 13.3 per cent of the entire Amazon region.
However, country's environment minister Jose Sarney Filho said the figures were an estimate and would be confirmed over the next year. In a statement, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said the increase in the deforestation rate in the Amazon basin shows that the government has failed in its fight against this damaging practice. It said that the latest figures were an underestimate because satellites can only spot deforested areas of more than six hectares and, therefore, did not pick up smaller clearings.
The WWF said several measures to curb deforestation announced by the government in January 1998 had not worked. Among others, these measures included restrictions on setting the forest on fire to clear areas, and a new legislation for the forestry industry which is yet to take effect.
A plan announced by Brazilian president F Cardoso in April 1998 to protect 10 per cent of Amazon rainforest has been put on halt due to bureaucratic bottlenecks, according to the WWF.
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