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The Amazon Region between protection and profit

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A map showing the protected areas of the Amazon BasinA new map of the Amazon produced shows that 10% of the Amazon rainforest was deforested between 2000 and 2010. The map, produced by the RAISG consortium (Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada) has produced the most comprehensive survey ever of the Amazon rainforest.

The map has discovered that protected areas (1.7 million sq. km) and indigenous territories (1.6 million sq. km) together represent 45% of the Amazon region and that there are proposals to protect another 475,168 sq. km of indigenous territory.

The population of the Amazon region is around 33.7 million, including 385 indigenous peoples and at least 71 “isolated groups”. The countries with the largest land areas officially protected in the Amazon are French Guyana (72.3%), Ecuador (72%), Venezuela (71.5%) and Colombia (64%). The country with the smallest protected area is Guyana (20%).

A second study by Imazon, focusing on Protected Areas in the Brazilian Amazon, found a mixed picture. Imazon found that the creation of Conservation Units covering 485,000 sq.km between 2003 and 2006 had reduced deforestation by 37%. On the other hand, deforestation and degradation of the rainforest has continued to threaten some of these areas. By July 2011 deforestation in Protected Areas represented 37% of all deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Pressure for the removal of protection or reduction in area came from agribusiness, local residents and government.

The aim of the Imazon study is to help the Brazilian government to identify priority areas for additional protection or restoration. The report also suggests that the government carry out a Strategic Environmental Evaluation for large construction projects to identify mitigation and compensation measures at regional level.

Forest policy remains controversial in Brazil. The draft Forest Code, vetoed by President Dilma in a previous form in July 2012, was due to be voted on in the Brazilian senate on 26 or 27 September.