Amazon rainforest destruction slows

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The Independent Online
Burning and logging continue to devastate huge tracts of the Amazon forest but the pace of destruction has slowed by more than half in the past two years, according to official figures released yesterday.

A record 11,600 square miles of Brazil's Amazon rainforest were burned or cut down in 1995.

The rate slowed to 7,200 square miles in 1996 and to an estimated 5,200 square miles in 1997, according to a five-month study conducted by the National Space Research Institute.

"These numbers are no reason to celebrate," the Brazilian Environment Minister, Gustavo Kraus, said at the long-awaited presentation of the study based on satellite images of the forest.

Mr Kraus noted that much of the slowdown in destruction was due to the abnormally heavy rainfall in Amazonia, a region of 2 million square miles.

Between 1978 and 1996, more than 200,000 square miles of forest or 12.5 per cent of the total Amazonia forest has disappeared.

- AP, Sao Jose dos Campos