The history of deforestation in the Amazon
The rate of deforestation between 1978 and 1989 is high. In the early1990s, the situation improved and the area deforested is 11,200 km2. However, by mid 1990s, the area has shot up again to 29,052 km2. By 1996, the area decreased by 40% and in 1997, the decreasing trend continued to 13,037 km2.
The arc of deforestation, as the name suggests, is a band where deforestation is the heaviest. The band begins in the Northeast of the State of Pará. It then goes south, skirting the Northeast of the States of Maranhă o and Tocantins. The arc contineues through the Northeast to the State of Mato Grosso and then through the north towards Rondô nia, crossing it completely from east to west. The arc finally ends at the State of Acre. From 1994 to 1996, the States of Mato Grosso and Pará contributed to more than 60% of the entire deforestation in the Amazon Forest. Rondô nia and Amazonas accounted 20%.
The causes to the deforestation problems are related to the social and economic growth of the region.
Due to the growing need for food, there is an increasing demand for arable land. As a result, forests are cleared for agriculture. This was made easier with reduction in land values, availability of technology and a demanding market.
The development of the region sees a growth in civil construction and housing reform. This leads to the increasing hardwood consumption. For example, in Brazil, the timber supply depends mainly on the Amazon Forest. Financial aid has been provided for logging activities.
Due to the growing population, there is an increase in the consumption of basic foodstuff, driven both by rural-urban migration and by increased purchasing power.
Homeless people and illegal migrants have also dwelled in the forest, further damaging it.
Asian companies have invested an estimated US$100 million in the Amazon region on the acquisition of offsetting industries, using cultivated timber. This investment encouraged timber-related industries and consequently channelled the sources of timber to the Amazon Forest. However, in 1997, IBAMA permission to exploit the forest was completely withdrawn from the companies. In addition, the companies were fined US$1 million. Almost 80,000 m3 of raw materials are confiscated.
Deforestation brings tremendous negative effects to plants, animals and man.
Forests recycle the worlds supply of oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They maintain the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. In this way, they play an essential role in maintaining the present climate of the planet. As the area of forests is reduced, more carbon dioxide will be found in the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide will accumulate in the Earths atmosphere and prevent heat from the sun from escaping into space. With more greenhouse gases in the air, global warming will occur. This will result in the flood, droughts and other disasters on Earth.
As forests play an important role in replacing the worlds supply of freshwater through transpiration of plants, our water cycle will be greatly affected and the local climate and rain system will start to change.
Forests help in the formation of soil. As the roots of trees grow downwards, they penetrate rocks and shatter them into smaller pieces. Further breaking down of rock fragments will lead to the formation of soil. With deforestation, less soil will be produced and consequently, agriculture will be made more difficult with less fertile soil. In addition, dead plants and animals in the forests will fertilize the soil.
Soil erosion is a serious problem. The fertile topsoil will be lost through surface runoff. In the Amazon Forest, where rainfall is abundant, deforestation will lead to a more severe form of soil erosion. The eroded soil may be washed into the Amazon River and block the river course due to heavy silting. Flooding may occur. Forests prevent this from happening by holding down the soil with plant roots.
Deforestation destroys the natural habitat of animals and kills species of plants. Some of the plants may also have medical value.
It is a big project to be undertaken by anyone to cut down the trees in the Amazon Forest, requiring labour, technology and capital. Therefore, the people will expect a great profit from the clearing of forests.
Rural property owners may invest heavily on their land to be cleared for economic return. Plantations can be built to produce what is needed by the market.
Farmers who carry out shifting swidden cultivation, which is a highly subsistence farming method, clear the forest for farming needs.
It was also said that in the 1970s and 1980s, fiscal incentives and land registrations promoted deforestation connected with major conversions. In the 1990s, a new profile was established to make conversions smaller and more dispersed.
The Brazilian government has taken action against deforestation. Advanced technology is used to monitor, control and inspect. The SIVAM (Amazon Surveillance System) has been set up to boost environmental management. The system combines sectoral policies for the region to take action for the causes of deforestation. The National Congress will pass necessary laws to discourage environmental infringement.
The local government has restricted the clearing of forests for arable land. In 1989, the government saw to the end of awarding fiscal incentives for deforestation. The Provisional Order 1511 which reduced the area of deforestation from 50% to 20% in the Amazon Forest. The moratorium on Mahogany (Decree 1963) was established in 1996. To further reduce deforestation, the government monitored the region with major control and checking operations. For example, Operation Macaua started by IBAMA in 1997 achieved remarkable results in seizures of about 600,000 m3 of timber and various fines. Tax assessment notices of 9.8 million reals were issued.
It was also established that actions against deforestation cannot lower the development of the region and the quality of the life of the people. The following set of rules were established:
C. To increase assistance to the small rural producers, decreasing dependence on the felling-burning cycle.
It is however impossible to stop deforestation completely. Environmentally, it would be beneficial. However, the socio-economic life of the people will be greatly affected. To completely stop deforestation means to paralyse the production of basic foodstuffs, commercial crops, timber-related industries, extraction of natural resources such as oil etc. All these will lead to lower living standards of people.
The Brazilian government is committed with the protection of the Amazon Forest, the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world. The government will find other methods of sustainable development for the local people. It is necessary for state authorities, various organizations and the community to help protect the forest. Internationally, other countries will channel more attention to deforestation. Together, future achievements will be remarkable.
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