In the Amazon, deforestation is on the rise
November 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:47 p.m. EST (0447 GMT)
From Rio de Janeiro Bureau Chief Marina Mirabella
MANAUS, Brazil (CNN) -- The burning of the Amazon, the
world's largest rain forest, is worse this year than it has
been in the recent past.
According to satellite data, burnings are up 28 percent over
last year. Over the years, more than 10 percent of the Amazon
jungle has been destroyed.
"This is one of the worst burning seasons we've had in a long
time," said Taracisio Machado of the Brazilian Environmental
After years of recession, cattle ranchers have more money to
invest in clearing land.
Small farmers, like the de Souza family, continue to move
into the rain forest.
"My husband and I have eight children to feed and no jobs in
the city," says Silveria de Souza. "We've come here to clear
the land and plant food."
While people are setting fires to clear forest land, the El
Nino weather phenomenon is aggravating those fires. El Nino
has dramatically reduced humidity in the Amazon, turning
loose foliage into kindling.
Machado said the extremely high temperatures and drought
conditions make it easier for fires to spread.
In an effort to control deforestation, Brazil's environmental
inspectors are fining those who burn or log illegally.
Government regulations require landowners in the Amazon to
preserve 80 percent of their land.
There's a moratorium on new licenses for logging mahogany and
other rare woods.
For every person who is fined for destroying the rain forest,
hundreds are never caught. There are only about 300
inspectors monitoring the vast Amazon region.
"They're outnumbered," said Philip Fearnside of the Institute
for Amazon Research. "Just a handful of inspectors can't
possibly control an area that's 5 million square kilometers."