The Amazon rain forest lost 7,300 square miles -- an area more than half the size of Maryland -- but deforestation slowed by nearly a third this year, Brazilian officials said Monday.
BRASILIA, Brazil The Amazon rain forest lost 7,300 square miles -- an area more than half the size of Maryland -- but deforestation slowed by nearly a third this year, Brazilian officials said Monday.
The rain forest lost 7,300 square miles between July 2004 and August 2005, down from 10,500 square miles in the same period the year before, Environment Minister Marina Silva said. Silva credited increased law enforcement and stringent environmental regulation.
"The effort that has been carried out by a group of government agencies ... demonstrates results," Silva said.
Silva said the largest decline in deforestation was along the edge of the highway running from the midwestern city of Cuiaba to the Amazon River port in Santarem. Government plans to pave the highway have increased land speculation in the region.
Environmentalists warn the plan could lead to the destruction of a huge swath of the jungle, while the government says that such destruction can be avoided with careful planning.
"The government is celebrating today, but we don't see any reason for a party," said Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon program. Adario said the amount of forest destroyed "is still incredibly high and unacceptable."
Announcement of the reduction comes just days before an international group that promotes a balance between logging and conservation is scheduled to gather in Manaus, some 1,700 miles northwest of Sao Paulo.
The Forest Stewardship Council certifies that forest products are harvested in accordance with environmental policies.
Scientists say deforestation reduces the area's biodiversity and contributes to global warming. Burning in the Brazilian Amazon releases about 370 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year -- about 5 percent of the world total.
Brazil's rain forest is as big as Western Europe and covers 60 percent of the country's territory. Experts say as much as 20 percent of its 1.6 million square miles has already been destroyed by development, logging and farming.
Associated Press Writer Michael Astor contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.
Source: Associated Press