Transient relief?

Published: Friday 30 September 2005

On August 26, 2005, Brazil announced a sharp decline in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest area within its territory, and the government lost no time in taking credit for the feat. Between August 2004 and July 2005, 9,103 square kilometres (sq km) of the rainforests were destroyed, against the previous year's 18,723 sq km. But some environmental groups suspect the slowing is merely the result of decline in international soy prices, giving farmers less reason to clear the forest, and might not last after soy prices recover. Brazil is the world's second largest soy producer, after the us .

But government officials attribute the drop in deforestation to a us $140 million government action plan launched in 2004 to curb illegal logging. The plan involves stronger police presence in the rainforest and tougher fines. "We have absolute certainty that the good indicators will continue to depend on the implementation of the action plan," said Dilma Roussef, a senior cabinet member co-ordinating the government's environmental task force. The announcement came less than three months after the government released official data showing that the Amazon rainforest was destroyed at a near-record pace in 2003-2004.

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