January 24, 2008
BRASILIA - The destruction of the Amazon forest surged over the last five months of 2007, the Brazilian government said on Wednesday, only months after hailing progress in curbing deforestation.
Deforestation in the Amazon, known as "the lungs of the world" for its ability to consume greenhouse gases and produce oxygen - shot up from 243 square km in August to 948 square km in December.
That is four times as much as in the same period of 2004, the government said. It did not provide comparative data for 2005 or 2006.
"We've never before detected such a high deforestation rate at this time of year," Gilberto Camara, the head of the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), which provides satellite imaging of the area, told a news conference in the capital Brasilia.
Between August and December, 3235 sq km of the world's largest rain forest was lost, and environment ministry officials said that preliminary figure was likely to double as satellite images with higher resolution are analysed.
Joao Paulo Capobianco, the ministry's executive secretary, said the figures were "extremely worrying."
Conservationists have warned that the recent rise in grain prices would lead to an increase in the deforestation, as farmers and ranchers go deeper into the Amazon in search of cheap land.
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