Brazil's Ibama (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais
RenováveisEnvironmental Protection Institute) is coordinating
an operation on the borders of the states of Amazonas, Acre and Rondônia
to combat burning, deforestation, commerce in lumber, traffic in wildlife
and slave-type labor.
A local Ibama official
in Acre, Anselmo Forneck, says the operation is expected to reduce deforestation
this year by 60 percent, compared to last year.
During the last three
weeks the operation confiscated 1,500 cubic meters of lumber, 2,000 liters
of fuel, 40 power saws, 2 tractors and one truck. Inspectors have also apprehended
a vast store of camping equipment.
Forneck says the project
has been able to head off deforestation before it takes place, citing the
case of an area of 5,000 hectares where 150 men had begun clearing the land
when inspectors put an end to their efforts.
The operation is scheduled
to continue until December. The problem is to find ways to halt the advance
of soy and cattle farming. "Deforestation began here in 2001. It has
already destroyed 4 percent of the region," says Forneck.
Minister of Environment,
Marina Silva, earlier this month, strongly denied reports that the Brazilian
government intends to privatize the Amazon region. She called the reports
"false and unfair."
And continued: "We
are working to halt land grabbing and any other assault on the country's sovereignty
in the Amazon region. It is not fair to this government to say anything different.
We are committed to defending the Amazon."
A new satellite is now
orbiting over the Amazon region. It is owned by Hispamar, a Brazilian satellite
firm, controlled by the Spanish company, Hispasat, which is the leading satellite
telecommunications firm on the Iberian Peninsula.
The new satellite has
been named Amazonas. It will cover an area previously dominated by Embratel's
Star One and a much wider area, as well.
The Embratel Star One
covered only Brazil and its border areas with Bolivia and Paraguay. The Amazonas
will cover the Americas from Canada to Patagonia, focusing mainly on Brazil.
It will be the first satellite operating on the C and KU bands for all of
the Americas, along with parts of Europe and Africa.
The Amazonas will provide
commercial and administrative services for the Brazilian government, including
the military, but will not provide national security services. Star One provides
national security services.
Hispamar invested US$
320 million in the Amazonas satellite. It will begin providing users with
information and services in September.
Burnings and Rain
Deforestation and burnings
alter rainfall patterns in the Amazon forest. This is one of the conclusions
reached by the Large-Scale Amazônia Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment's
(LBA) Millenium Institute project, coordinated by Paulo Artaxo, a scientist
attached to the University of São Paulo's Institute of Physics.
The project involves 120
researchers who study changes in soil use and their impact on the climate.
The project is funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The researchers monitored
the climate in ten sites scattered east and west in the Amazon region, from
Pará to Acre. They have already discovered, for example, that, in the
majority of the sites, each hectare of forest absorbs a half ton of carbon
"If this were multiplied
by the approximately five million square kilometers of forest, we could assert
that Amazônia is, possibly, the largest absorber of the atmosphere's
carbon gas," Artaxo observed.
The scientist emphasized,
however, that one cannot perform a simple multiplication exercise to calculate
carbon absorption, because the forest is heterogeneous, with rainfall and
solar radiation patterns that vary according to location.
In Santarém (Pará
state), for example, researchers from the Millenium Institute found that there
is a net annual loss of carbon on the order of 3 tons per hectare. That is,
there is no absorption.
The explanation is that,
in this region, the forest is drier and has a very high decomposition rate.
There are more dead trees decaying than new ones germinating.
Bianca Estrella works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.