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Brazzil - Environment - July 2004

Brazil's Deforestation Worries Scientists

Brazilian scientists are discussing ways to stop the destruction
of Brazil's Amazon rainforest. One fifth of the area has already
been chopped down. And the clearing continues to make room
for soybean and cattle. According to a scientist, the Amazon is
an enormous laboratory that urgently needs a political project.

Keite Camacho


Picture A warning went out from the 56th Annual Meeting of the SBPC (Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência—Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science): each year 25,000 square kilometers or 6 million acres of the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed. So far, one-fifth of the world's biggest tropical forest has already been destroyed.

The SBPC annual meeting is taking place this week in the state of Mato Grosso.

Ennio Candotti, the president of the SBPC, declared that he is concerned about the ability of science to deal with environmental preservation and end deforestation. The Amazon forest is being chopped down to make room for soybeans and cattle, he said.

"Experts from the Embrapa (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária—Brazilian Farm Research Corporation) say that soybean crops and cattle raising should be confined to areas already cleared. Their studies show that it is possible to double grain and animal production without cutting down any more trees. Cattle, for example, can be raised in smaller areas using modern technology," declared the SBPC president.

Candotti says that the Amazon rainforest is an enormous scientific laboratory that urgently needs a political project. "There are other countries that invest more in the Amazon than Brazil. And we must combat deforestation by finding out who is the mastermind behind the destruction. We have a thousand scientist in the region. We need ten thousand," he said.

A Satellite for the Amazon

Brush and forest fires in the Amazon will be monitored this year in areas of up to six square kilometers by a satellite launched by Brazil last October in China. This information was provided by the Minister of Science and Technology, Eduardo Campos, during an interview for the National Radio of Amazônia.

The Minister assured that, when a modification is detected in a specific area of the forest, be it a hot spot or deforestation, the satellite will immediately transmit the data to the Ibama (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais RenováveisBrazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), through the Inpe (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais—National Institute of Space Research).

Campos also informed that the CBA (Centro de Biotecnologia da Amazônia—Amazônia Biotechnology Center), inaugurated in December, 2002, "will receive duly contracted and operational staff in the next 60 days."

Regarding the Alcântara Satellite Launching Base, in the state of Maranhão, he said that everything is programmed for the next launch to occur in July, 2006. "Brazil will be among the 10 countries in the world that have advanced space programs," he guaranteed.

Digital inclusion was another item broached by the Minister, who underscored the federal government's effort to get computer manufacturers to reduce the price of computers.

Completing the picture, according to Campos, are "the gradual use of free software," special credit lines to enable teachers in the interior to purchase computers, and the installation of telecenters, equipped with broadband internet access, in the most remote regions of the Amazon and the Northeast.

Space Program

The new president of the Brazilian Space Agency, Maurício Guadenzi, a civil engineer, is already involved in the reactivation of the Alcântara Launching Base, according to Campos, in order to meet the end-of-the-year 2006 deadline set by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Brazil's space program is ongoing, he said. As an example, he cited activities related to climate and weather. "Satellites play a direct role, not always perceived, in the lives of citizens, when they favor giving support to agribusiness and family farming and reducing crop insurance, as well as their importance to learning at a distance, medicine, and national security."

Campos also commented that over 150 institutes from all over the world are interested in buying from China and Brazil images taken by the satellite launched in October. And he guaranteed that the images of the Amazon will be for domestic use.

Keite Camacho 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 Allen Bennett.

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