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Title:    Deforestation in Rondonia Increases by 20.6%
Source:   SEJUP 
Status:   Distribute freely with accreditation
Date:     December 4, 1997

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NEWS FROM BRAZIL supplied by SEJUP (Servico Brasileiro de Justica 
e Paz).
                 Number 295, December 04,1997 
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Deforestation in Rondonia increases by 20.6%  

According to data of the State Environmental Secretariat of the State of Rondonia quoted in the 'Folha de Sao Paulo' on November 30, deforestation in the state has increased by 20.6% during the last two years. Until 1994, 4267228 hectares had been deforested there. At the end of 1996 the area with forest cleared in the state amounted to 5149386 hectares or 21.6% of the area of the entire state.

''By the end of the current year we expect that the total area deforested will reach 5.4 million hectares which is 22.7% of the state. There is a tendency for the deforestation rate to even out but the problem is that this stabilization is taking place when deforestation rates are very high'' commented forester Ernaldo Matricardi, a functionary of the State Secretariat, in the Folha report.

He forecasts that approximately 270 thousand hectares (1.1% of the total area of the state) will be deforested during the current year - a figure close to that of last year. According to Mr. Matricardi the worse period of deforestation was between 1993 and 1995 when the Brazilian economy showed a renewed growth.  ''During this period deforestation was significantly higher when compared to previous years'' he commented.

A number of reasons seem to be largely responsible for the high rates of deforestation at that time - the increase in cattle ranching and the occupation of new areas along the BR-429 and BR- 421 highways. Another reason was that a number of ranchers cleared large areas on their properties at the time in order to escape having their lands classified as unused and there apt for exappropriation for agrarian reform projects.

The Folha article quotes Roberto Smeraldi, director of the Brazilian office of the Friends of the Earth as commenting that what is happening in Rondonia indicates that the same is happening in other Amazonian states. The conclusions of the Rondonia State Secretariat were based on data taken from the Landsat satellite.

Meanwhile the National Institute of Space Surveys (INPE) announced that new deforestation data referring to the Amazonian region for 1995 and 1996 due to be publish last week would be ready by mid December. A spokesperson for the Institute commented that the delay was due to difficulties in analyzing some of the images sent by the Landsat satellite. The spokesperson denied that the Institute was delaying publication of the data until after the Kyoto International Convention which finishes on December 10.  Some environmental activists suspect that if the data were released before the Convention, Brazil would be subjected to very severe criticism for the increasing rate of deforestation in the Amazonian region.

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