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Brazzil - Nation - August 2004

Brazil Calls Army to Battle Deforestation

Deforestation of the Amazon destroyed over 23.7 thousand square
kilometers of forest last year alone. The Brazilian government
is counting on its Armed Forces to fight this problem. Through
the end of 2005, the Brazilian Army should receive US$ 6.10
million to underwrite its operations in the Amazon region.

Maurício Cardoso


Picture The Brazilian Army will provide logistic support and guarantee the security of operations to monitor, control, and combat deforestation in the Amazon.

The agreement between the Ibama (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis—Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) and the Army Command of Land Operations (Coter), signed on August 6 in Brasília, is part of the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon, which counts on the participation of 13 ministries.

According to the Army General Commander, General Francisco Roberto Albuquerque, the preservation of the Amazon is a matter of national security.

"Environmental preservation ceased to be an issue confined to environmentalists and intellectuals a long time ago. The preservation of the ecosystem and the rich biodiversity of the Amazon is a matter of national security," the Commander affirmed, adding that the intensive presence of the Armed Forces will avoid illegitimate meddling in the region.

Through this agreement, the Army will participate in operations to combat deforestation throughout the Brazilian Amazon, furnishing logistical support in transportation—land, air, and river—, communications, and the security of government employees involved in monitoring and inspecting deforested areas.

The Ibama already has seven permanent bases of operations in the Amazon—there will be 19 by the end of 2005—equipped with computers, GPS (Global Positioning System), generators, vehicles, and road signal and control instruments.

The Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, said that, more than a simple agreement, the partnership with the Army represents a joint effort by a society that wants to see the Amazon protected and developed.

"A society that does not want development in the Amazon but, rather, the development of the Amazon," with sustainable growth and the preservation of its communities and its biodiversity.

Silva underscored that illegal deforestation, predatory occupation, and land squatting deform and destroy the Amazon, its communities, and its populations.

In her view, deforestation of the Amazon, which last year alone destroyed over 23.7 thousand square kilometers of forest, needs to be dealt with in practice through joint actions and efforts.

Through the end of 2005, the Ibama will transfer US$ 6.10 million (18.5 million reais) to underwrite Army operations in the region.

Altered Climate

Around 800 scientists from Brazil and abroad have gathered recently in Brasília to discuss the process of transformation in Amazon ecosystems and the consequences for global climatic patterns. They participated in the III Scientific Conference of the LBA (Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazônia).

The researchers engaged in the LBA experiment meet every two years to present their findings and debate how their research results can best be incorporated into the formulation of government policies aimed at the region's sustainable development.

According to the scientists, deforestation and burnings in Amazônia are altering the climate and amplifying the greenhouse effect around the planet. Therefore, an understanding of the role of the Amazon in the Earth's environmental balance is of strategic importance.

The topics debated ranged from the chemistry of the atmosphere to hydrology and covered such matters as carbon storage and exchange, changes in land use, and the physics of climate.

In Brazil, the accelerated deforestation of the Amazon threatens to shorten the rainfall cycle in the Southern and Southeastern regions, convert large forest areas into savannahs, and modify humidity levels in the region.

In his talk on interactions between climate and vegetation in the Amazon, the coordinator of the LBA, Carlos Nobre, a scientist attached to the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe), was emphatic in contending that climate change in Amazônia "is a fact."

He informed that what they are trying to determine "is the scale on which this is taking place." Nobre pointed out that the climate in deforested regions has suffered variations of up to three degrees in maximum temperatures.

According to the scientist, a transformation trend already exists in 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon, but it is still too soon to state categorically the extent of its real impact, since the modifications are spread across the six million square kilometers of Continental Amazônia.

"If the modifications were concentrated in a single location, we would already be observing more changes," he explained.

"If our physical knowledge is correct in asserting that large-scale deforestation can lead to diminished rainfall and global heating, the projections indicate that Amazônia will be transformed into savannah in a period of 50-100 years," Nobre warns.

According to him, in the worst scenario, the savannah takes over 60 percent of the forest and, in the average scenario, it replaces 20-30 percent. "In the best scenario, it doesn't take over anything, and that is what we want."

To study the interaction between the Amazon Forest and atmospheric and climatic conditions, the participants in the LBA utilize a variety of equipment, such as data-gathering towers scattered throughout the forest and remote sensoring instruments installed in satellites.

The research conducted by the LBA has already produced findings on the role of aerosols in the absorption of solar radiation, the plant nutrient cycle, and the importance of water vapor emitted by the Amazon in the formation of clouds and rain, among other results.

Maurício Cardoso works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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