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Amazon deforestation falls as laws reformed

Brazil has revealed that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon region has fallen to its lowest level in some 23 years. The National Institute for Space Research said that 2,400 square miles of rainforest disappeared between August 2010 and July 2011, a drop of 11 per cent from the previous year.

The government has said the drop is due to it’s tough stance on illegal logging. However, in two states, Rondonia and Mato Grosso, rainforest clearance rose considerably in the past year. The three main causes of deforestation are clearance of land for cattle farming and agricultural crop production as well as logging for timber.

In the days following the announcement, the Brazilian Senate voted to approve controversial legislation to reform rules on the amount of land farmers must preserve as forest. In addition, the legislation eases fines for some past deforestation if the farmers concerned commit to reforestation programmes.

There is fierce debate in Brazil over agricultural laws – supporters of the legislation claim Brazil needs more land for agriculture, while environmentalists warn that any relaxation of the tough rules on land use could see a return to higher levels of forestry clearance and undo the work already done.

The bill also marks a difficult moment for President Dilma Rousseff, who has promised both to support economic development and also to uphold the pledges she made on the protection of the environment while running for office.

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