Published: Sunday 31 May 1998

Brazil has planned to conserve 2.51 million hectares (ha) of Amazon rain forest. This shows the government's commitment to the faltering preservation of the endangered tropical wilderness. The country would take financial and technical assistance from the World Bank and a conservation group, wwf International. This step would put 10 per cent of the Brazilian Amazon under government protection, three times as much as is now protected.

The wb and the wwf think that it would take years to identify the land to be protected, to arrange the financing for the effort and to decide how to manage the forests and enforce the conservation rules. However, it would a real challenge for Brazil to carry out the proposal. For years, the country has been trying to focus on environmental issues. But it has faced tremendous pressures from industries such as logging, farming, mining and grazing.

Nigel Sizer, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute and an expert on Amazonian forests, says that it will not by itself significantly reduce tho on-going rate of deforestation in the region. "The root causes that continue to cause deforestation to accelerate are not addressed," he says.

Though it would be largest conservation programme in Brazil, it would not be able to prevent degradation in a region that covers nearly one-third of the remaining tropical forests. These forests also hold one-tenth of all plant and animal species.

Recently, Brazil released information, which showed that deforestation had increased during this decade. Nearly 2.8 million ha of forests were destroyed in the 1994-95 burning season. Even greater acreage than that may have been burnt in intense and wide-spread fires over the last several months, environmentalists say.

Studies have shown that already 5.2 million ha of the Amazon's 40 million ha are deforested. Brazil has received severe criticism from around the world for fires, logging and other forms of land clearing in the country.

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