Samba in the Forest: two steps backward, one step forward.

Feature story - 14 February, 2006
An area twice the size of Belgium has been given greater protection in the Amazon after a Presidential decree. This is around the same area of the Amazon that was lost to deforestation over the past three years.

Worm's eye view of a mahogany tree in the Amazon forest, Brazil

The decree by President Lula of Brazil to create the 6.4 millionhectare (around 16 million acres) conservation area is a great victoryfor the people of the Amazon battling landgrabbers, cattle ranchers andloggers. The decree calls for around 1.6 million hectares to bepermanently protected and totally off limits to logging anddeforestation.

Another2.8 million hectares will be used for sustainable logging concessionsto prevent deforestation and ensure well-managed forests. Developmentguidelines will be improved in an additional 2 million hectares offorest.

Whilst the 6.4 million hectares is a victory for manycommunities in the Amazon, it still represents less than two percent ofthe total Brazilian Amazon. An area one-third the size of the newconservation area is lost every year in the Amazon to logging, soyplantations and cattle ranchers.

"This is a great step towardsthe protection and sustainable use of the world's last ancient forestsbut is only a fraction of what is needed. The Amazon and the life itsupports is seriously threatened by destructive logging and landclearance to grow crops like soy. We need more initiatives like this tosave the world's last ancient forests," said Paulo Adário, forestcampaign co-ordinator for Greenpeace Brazil.

The newconservation areas will be created in a crucial part of the Amazonalongside the notorious highway called the BR163. The road cuts throughthe heart of the Amazon and a promise by the Brazilian Government topave the road has resulted in accelerated rates of deforestation in thearea. Without the increased protection this decree provides, this areawould have soon been destroyed for soy plantations and cattle ranches.

Inthe city of Curitiba in southern Brazil, the Convention on BiologicalDiversity (CBD) will meet in March to work on plans to protect theworld's biodiversity from being lost to the world permanently. One ofthe main aims of the CBD is to create a global network of protectedareas that would form the basis for the protection of the world'splants and animals by 2010.

If the goals of the CBD are to bereached, Brazil and many other countries will have to greatly increasethe rate of forest protection. The consequences of failing to do so aremore than just a broken international treaty. With only 20 percent ofthe world's original ancient forest still standing, the fate of theseforests, the wildlife that lives in them and the millions of people whodepend on them everyday for their livelihood is at stake.

Canada recently announced that over two million hectares of the Great Bear Rainforestalong the pacific west coast of the country will be protected alongwith sustainable management for a further four million plus hectares.With Brazil adding another 6.4 million hectares, the global network ofprotected areas are beginning to fall into place.

However,with around 10 million hectares of forest around the world beingdestroyed each and every year, there is still much work to be done.

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