Sunday, January 27, 2008

How to deal with the growing deforestation in the Amazon rain forest?

Bad news from Brazil: The Brazilian Environment Ministry announced last Wednesday that as many as 2,700 square miles of Brazilian rain forest had been cleared from August through December, meaning that Brazil could lose 5,791 square miles of jungle by this August if the rate of deforestation continued.

This data is surprising as in the last three years there was a consistent decline in deforestation. The growing logging is probably spurred by high prices for corn, soy and cattle according to environmental officials in Brazil.

President Lula da Silva called an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers to discuss the new data. After the meeting new measures were announced including sending additional federal police and environmental agents to the Amazon.
The Washington Post reports that the Environment Minister Marina Silva said that the authorities will also monitor the areas where the deforestation occurred in an attempt to prevent anyone from trying to plant crops or raise cattle there.

Reuters reported on other measures that will be taken:

1. The government will put on hold any new deforestation requests in 36 municipalities in an area that accounted for half of the forest destruction last year.

2. Landowners in the area will have to prove they maintain preservation areas, and could face penalties like being denied official credit if they fail to meet some requirements.

3. Companies like trading houses, soybean crushers and meat processors that buy commodities originating from destroyed areas of the forest will be considered responsible for deforestation.

I think that the plan is good, but I am not sure how well it can fight the economic incentives that drives the massive deforestation we see now. I think that another step to be taken is to give a counter-incentive to keep these trees alive. If local governments and municipalities will be paid to protect these trees, then they have an economic value as live trees. If this value will be high enough, then it will be worthwhile to keep them alive.

I think the measures should be based on the stick and the carrot both and not only rely on the stick. Give local communities the carrot and I promise you that you will see deforestation figures decrease again.

I also think it shouldn't be the sole responsibility of the Brazilian government to take care of it. The Brazilian rain forest is called "the lungs of the world" for its ability to consume greenhouse gases and produce oxygen, and hence I believe the world (especially the developed countries) should chip in.

Just last week we reported on
Norway's willingness to contribute about $500 million a year to projects aimed at protecting forests in developing countries. I think this kind of funding (and of course other countries should contribute as well) can make some good in Brazil and help Lula protect this precious natural resource. What do you think?

Raz @ Eco-Libris

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