Destruction of the Amazon Rainforest
Rubber tappers in Jurua Extractive Reserve, Amazon, Brazil.
Illegal and destructive logging is one of the biggest threats to
theAmazon Rainforest with between 60 and 80 percent of logging
Between August 2003 and August 2004, 26,130 square km, 2.6
millionhectares of forest was destroyed, this was the second
highest inBrazilian history.
In the last 30 years, we have lost 15 percent of the
BrazilianAmazon - 50 million hectares, an area the size of France,
bigger thanall of Japan or the state of Texas and almost the size
Around 1,000 of Brazil's recorded species of higher plants and
animals are considered under immediate threat of extinction.
A handful of large companies from Europe, Asia and the US
controlmore than 12 percent of the Amazon's timber processing
capacity andalmost half of the export value.
Over the past 10 years the production of industrial round wood
inthe Brazilian Amazon increased by approximately 19 percent over
theprevious decade. Areas designated for protection increased
onlymarginally, from 3.8 to 4.4 percent of Brazil's landmass.
If all traditional indigenous territory in Brazil was
officiallymapped and demarcated, approximately 20 percent of the
Amazonrainforest would gain protected status.
Over two-thirds of all mass-produced pharmaceutical drugs
arederived from medicinal plants. According to the World
HealthOrganisation (WHO), 80 percent of the world's people use
plants totreat a wide range of illnesses from headaches to
infections. Themedicinal potential of plants of the Amazon has only
just begun to berealised internationally. At present, close to 650
species of plantwith pharmaceutical properties and economic value
from the Amazon havebeen assessed.
Forty-eight native fruits of the Amazon have been identified
ashaving the potential for sale on the international market. The
fruitsof the Acai Palm found in the Amazon, are traditionally used
to make atype of juice that is rich in minerals. A single palm tree
produces upto 20 kg of fruit per year. In 1995 almost 106,000
tonnes of juice wasproduced at a value of US$40 million.
Eco-tourism in the Amazon has huge potential but is at
presentmanaged in an unsatisfactory way. Eco-tourism has the
potential toguarantee minimal environmental impact on the Amazon
rainforest throughthe application of environmentally friendly
technologies andenvironmentally sympathetic accommodation for
visitors. It could alsoguarantee that the income received from such
activities would directlybenefit the local communities.
"Short of a miraculous
transformation inthe attitude of people and governments, the
Earth's remaining closedcanopy forests and their associated
biodiversity are destined todisappear in the coming decades," said
Klaus Toepfer, Director of theUnited National Environment Program,
on August 21, 2001.