Today in History – April 29, 1998 – Ten percent of the Amazon rain forest is preserved. On this day, Brazil agreed to set aside about 25 million ha (62 million ac) of the Amazon rain forest for conservation in cooperation with the World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund. This initiative will protect 10% of its forests by the year 2000. The estimated cost of setting aside this land the size of Great Britain is between $84 million and $156 million.
The plant-rich Amazon ecosystem is sometimes called “the lungs of the Earth” with one-fifth of the world’s plants, one sixth of all the world’s birds, one in 11 of the world’s mammals and one in 15 of the world’s reptiles.
Alas, massive deforestation and development have polluted the environment and now Brazil is one of the world’s top four emitters of greenhouse gases. Between May 2002 and May 2003, it is reported that Brazil lost more than 24,000 square kilometers of forest – an area larger than the size of Israel.
This 1998 initiative has been followed by more recent efforts, but the work seems to be trying to hold back the tide. A recent news article claims: “Since reaching a recent peak of 10,588 square miles of forest destroyed in the Amazon in 2004, deforestation dropped for the next three years, before rising slightly this year to 4,621 square miles, according to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which monitors deforestation. “
The good news is that Brazil has decided recently to set a target for reducing deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade. The success of these plans for set asides require finding economic alternatives for the people living in the rain forests and close monitoring for illegal clear cutting.