Magazine article World Watch

Amazon Hatchet Job

Magazine article World Watch

Amazon Hatchet Job

Article excerpt

The Brazilian government

is planning to effectively gut efforts to protect the Amazon, despite news that the world's largest and most quickly disappearing rainforest is being cleared twice as quickly as previously thought. In response to the fiscal austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) $41 billion bailout package signed last November, Brazil is planning to zero out between 60 and 90 percent of its $70 million budget for conservation and environmental programs in the Amazon.

Ironically, the cuts will slash some programs funded largely by international aid, such as the Pilot Program for the Conservation of Brazilian Tropical Forests, which surveys and sets aside indigenous lands, aims to curb deforestation, and has plans to set aside 240,000 square miles - nearly 10 percent of the Amazon - as preserves for conservation and indigenous people. International governments have agreed to pay up to $250 million for the Pilot Program - but Brazil must first put up matching funds of 10 percent. In addition, the government has proposed reducing the budget for environmental programs by 66 percent.

While alarmed by the cuts, environmental activists arc more concerned that the IMF's measures will set off a social and environmental chain reaction, driving those facing unemployment into the Amazon to illegally log trees or to clear land for small farms or mines. "The recessionary impact is going to aggravate an already serious problem of unemployment and environmental damage," said Steven Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund. …

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