Brazil's government has promised to investigate allegations that its policy of settling landless communities in the Amazon is encouraging deforestation. Greenpeace has claimed that some of these areas are being exploited by logging companies, after what it says was an eight-month investigation.
Brazil's environment ministry says deforestation in those areas is falling but it will investigate the claims. The Lula administration, which has been praised for several programs to combat poverty and eliminate hunger, says that land distribution to the poor is an important objective.
But Greenpeace says the implementation of the policy is encouraging uncontrolled logging and deforestation in some parts of the Amazon.
Greenpeace claims the government's land reform agency, Incra, is setting aside areas for land settlement that are of great value to the timber industry, instead of placing people on land that has already been cleared.
Greenpeace says links are then encouraged between the logging companies and unregulated groups representing the settlers, which only facilitates what it calls "gross exploitation" of the newly formed settlement.
The investigation focused on an area in the state of Pará, where more than 30,000 families were said to have been settled in 2006 alone. The allegation comes at a time when the government is celebrating news that deforestation in the Amazon in the 12 months to July 2006 fell by 25%.
Environment Minister Marina da Silva has promised the claims will be fully investigated, but the government says satellite images show deforestation in settlement areas has been falling, not rising.
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