Economic Development and Environmental Protection in Latin America

By Joseph S. Tulchin | Go to book overview

7
Deforestation: A Brazilian Perspective

Tadeu Valadares

In order to tackle the subject of deforestation in a rational and unemotional way, we must take into consideration a few preliminary facts.In a sense these facts are interconnected with the deplorable phenomenon of uncontrolled and illegal burning of forested areas in the Brazilian Amazon.First, in order to conduct a fair analysis of the problem, the sheer magnitude of the Legal Amazon must be acknowledged.This huge region comprises 60 percent of Brazil—approximately five million square kilometers.The area covered by the humid forest comprises only slightly more than half of this total, 2.8 million square kilometers. Recognition of the geographical extension of this continent within a continent helps one immediately understand the relevance of the Amazon for Brazil.The Amazon basin has an undeniable strategic significance for Brazil's national development.The integration of the Amazon basin into the national political economy is a goal shared by all informed citizens.Thus, how to mix the resources of the Amazon with other facets of the Brazilian economy is a topic of lively discussion.What is agreed upon by all, however, is that Brazil will be truly developed only if rational policies conducive to the optimum use of the resources offered by our tropical forest are devised and implemented immediately.

Approximately eighteen million people live within the boundaries of this gigantic area. This figure includes eight hundred thousand garimpeiros (mineral diggers) and less than two hundred thousand Indians.The inhabitants of the Legal Amazon are the manifestation of a larger historical process of population growth that gained momentum in the last two decades.In 1970 the Amazonian population was only 3.6 million, by 1980 the population had reached 7.6 million.The region is still experiencing rapid growth, as significant waves of migrants from other areas of Brazil are attracted there. From a demographic viewpoint, however, the region may be considered underpopulated.

____________________
Tadeu Valadares is counselor for the embassy of Brazil in San José, Costa Rica.

-55-

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