In 50 years the Amazon region ("Amazônia") may be reduced to half its present size, and six regional water basins may be stripped of more than 60% of their forest cover.
This is the grim picture painted by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), if steps are not taken to promote sustainable local development.
The estimates appear in the conclusions of the "Amazônia Scenarios" project, which was developed by the institute and presented earlier this month at the encounter, "The Amazon and the New Global Economy: How to Administer Deforestation in a New Era."
According to Daniel Nepstad, director of the IPAM and coordinator of the project, a great deal of the depredation and reduction of natural resources in the Amazon could be avoided through "good planning, strengthening groups with sustainable development proposals for the region, and negotiation."
He observed that "new techniques of environmental management could spread throughout the region, thus enabling groups to formulate more coherent and feasible proposals."
The director of the Brazilian Ministry of Environment’s National Forests Program, Tasso Azevedo, who participated in the encounter, judges that there are ways to harmonize economic interests with forest preservation in the Amazon.
"The policies that are being proposed seek to inculcate the idea of using the forest in a sustainable manner. The public forest management law foresees this, as do the policies aimed at the traditional populations and their reinforcement and credit instruments geared to sustainable activities. In other words, strengthening the policies that make it worthwhile to keep the forest standing," he argued.
Azevedo mentioned the example of an extractive reserve in which, instead of destroying the forest, latex is extracted for a sustainable production of rubber, and Brazil nuts are gathered.
"They represent ways to extract forest products without cutting down the trees, that is, without deforestation, and using these products to generate income and employment.
"If you have this mechanism that generates income by using the forest, it keeps you from wanting to eliminate the forest to be able to plant something later that will only generate income at some even more distant point in time."
The director of the National Forests Program went on to say that even logging companies can adopt the practice of sustainable management.
"In an area of more or less one hectare, equivalent to the size of a soccer field, with around one thousand young trees and two hundred mature trees, five to six mature trees can be felled every 30 years," he said.
Municipal environmental administration is one of the basic proposals for preserving biodiversity in the Amazon. The topic was also discussed in the Brasília meeting.
According to the ministry’s coordinator of decentralization of Environmental Management, Ronaldo Martins, when municipal environmental administration is "well implemented, and conservation activities are well executed," resources can be generated for the municipalities. He informed that US$ 4.69 million (10 million reais) have been earmarked for municipal environmental protection projects.
The funds come from donations made by the world’s seven wealthiest countries, together with Russia, pursuant to an agreement signed after the Eco-92 conference to stimulate environmental protection activities in emerging countries.
Martins informed that US$ 3.05 million (6.5 million reais) have been allocated in two years. He said that three municipalities in the officially delimited Amazon region ("Amazônia Legal") have shown financial expansion: Juína (in Mato Grosso state), Itaituba (Pará), and Marabá (Pará).
According to Martins, the environmental protection projects developed in each municipality are aimed at the identification of potentially polluting activities.
"In municipal environmental administration there is the possibility of gauging the level of impact of the polluting enterprise, reduce these impacts to the degree possible, and make sure that procedures are followed in compliance with municipal ordinances," he informed.