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Amazon Deforestation Accelerates

Deforestation of the Amazon has surged in recent months and is likely to rise in 2008 for the first time in four years, a senior Brazilian government scientist said on Wednesday.

The rise raises questions over Brazil's assertion that its environmental policies are effectively protecting the world's biggest rain forest, whose destruction is a major source of carbon emissions that drive global warming.

"I think the last four months is a big concern for the government and now they are sending people to do more law enforcement," Carlos Nobre, a scientist with Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, told a seminar in Washington.

"But I can tell you that it (deforestation) is going to be much higher than 2007."

Nobre, whose government agency monitors the Amazon and gathers data, said that 2,300 square miles of forest had been lost in the past four months.

That compares with an estimated 3,700 square miles in the 12 months ended July 31, which Brazil officials hailed as the lowest deforestation rate since the 1970s.

Brazil's government has said that policies such as more controls on illegal logging and better certification of land ownership were reducing the deforestation that has destroyed about a fifth of the forest -- an area bigger than France -- since the 1970s.

But environmental groups have warned that rising global commodity prices are likely to fuel more clearing of land for farms, as occurred in 2004 when Brazil recorded the highest deforestation rate of more than 10,400 square miles (27,000 square km ).

Reuters



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