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Electronic Registry Aims to Slow Amazon Deforestation

brazili.jpg Alana Herro writes for Eye on Earth (e²), a service of World Watch Magazine in partnership with the blue moon fund. e² provides a unique perspective on current events, newly released studies, and important global trends.

In an effort to stop illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s government has announced that starting this month, it will begin using a new electronic registry for the transport and storage of all forestry products. The previous system was based on paper documents that were easy to falsify. According to Environment Minister Marina Silva, all forestry products transported within the country must now be registered in a central database maintained jointly by the Ministry and by the state environmental protection agency, Ibama. The new system is “more transparent and more efficient,” Silva says.

Brazil lost 16,700 square kilometers of rainforest between 2005 and 2006, though this was a decline of 11 percent over the previous year, according to preliminary government figures. Officials credit better law enforcement and stricter environmental regulations for the slower deforestation rate. Environmentalists, however, cite economic factors such as the declining price of soybeans on the international market, which has provided a disincentive for farmers to clear forestland to make room for soy plantations—one of the leading causes of Brazilian deforestation.

With the electronic registry, Silva predicts even greater reductions in deforestation in the coming year. Some, however, question the rationale of launching the new system now, particularly in light of recent reports suggesting Ibama’s complicity in illegal logging operations. In late August, Brazilian police busted an underground logging ring involving 24 Ibama employees, just months after authorities uncovered a larger ring of 74 suspects. “The government announced this transition without adequate preparation at a time when illegal forestry is already at high levels,” noted the environmental group Greenpeace. The group estimates that some three-quarters of Brazil’s deforestation is illegal; in total, as much as 20 percent of the country’s rainforests have been destroyed by logging, development, and farming.

The September 1 announcement of the forest products registry came just days before Brazilian delegates introduced a proposal for an initiative that would compensate developing countries for any reductions in their deforestation levels. They presented the initiative at a planning meeting in Rome held in preparation for upcoming global climate talks.

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