Why is Brazilian Amazon Being Destroyed
15 percent of the Amazon forest area located in Brazil has been destroyed. There are several players responsible for this high deforestation rate of Brazilian Amazon. One of them are land grabbers who employ fraud and violence to claim land. Similarly, loggers also cut the trees for their own commercial benefits. Colonists and farmers also clear land for habitation or agricultural purpose and similarly, there are capitalist farmers and cattle ranchers who purchase land from one or more of the culprits mentioned above. Even though they do not directly contribute towards forestation, secondary players such as gold miners and money launderers do encourage such activities. Other secondary though involuntary players are migrant laborers who are forced into debt slavery (Finkmoore, Pg. 27, Para. 5).
Brazil has gone through a significant economic and demographic evolution over the last few decades and not all of these developments have been positive news in regard to Amazon forest. Over the last quarter century, new factors such as beef production, soybean cultivation, population growth, and infrastructure development have emerged as serious threats to Amazon forest. Not only beef consumption has grown domestically but Brazil has also become a major beef exporter. There is a demand for Brazilian Beef in the international market due to competitive prices, made possible by illegal activities such as unauthorized use of government land. Soybean oil demand has also risen due to rise in demand of biodiesel fuels. In other words, globalization has been a blessing for Brazil but the huge social cost has been the high deforestation rate of Brazilian Amazon (Finkmoore, Pg. 29, Para. 3).
Amazon’s Current Status
Loss of forest cover continues to be a major concern in the Amazon Basin. Further complicating the issue is the fact that land tenure and land ownership rights are poorly defined. The lack of national accounting systems also negatively impact decision making as well as overseeing processes. As of 2010, 14 percent of the total Amazon forest area was designated for conservation. Similarly, 6.7 percent of total Amazon forest area was designated for protection of soil and water (FAO and (ITTO), Pg. 26, Para. 2, Pg. 27, Table 14).
Biofuel production is expected to continue to increase and may compete with ethanol produced from sugar cane by 2030. Timber production has also been increasing in the region and the bulk of Brazil’s industrial wood now comes from planted forests. It is expected that the private sector may continue to make investments in forest plantations in the near future (FAO and (ITTO), Pg. 40, Para. 3-4).
Management plans ensure sustainable forest management and only ten percent or less of Amazon forest area is covered by a management plan. Even though most of the Amazon forest is publicly owned, forest agencies lack personnel and budgets to ensure strict enforcement of forest laws and control of forest areas. But all is not bad news. Central and local governments as well as forest-dependent communities have been working towards sustainable forest management plans. It is expected that even though loss of primary forest will continue, the deforestation rate will slow down due to better management of protected and forest conservation areas. Communities and indigenous people are expected to play greater roles in management of native forest areas. (FAO and (ITTO), Pg. 36, para. 1, Pg. 39, Para. 1, Pg. 40, Para. 2).
- FAO and International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). “The State of Forests in the Amazon Basin, Congo Basin and Southeast Asia.” Summit Report. 2011.
- Finkmoore, Richard. “Deforestation in Amazonia.” Cooper, James M. and Christine Hunefeldt. Environment and the Law in Amazonia: A Plurilateral Encounter. Sussex Academic Press, February 1, 2013. 27-29.