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Marcio Astrini, coordinator of Greenpeace Amazon, says that the latest official numbers for deforestation in Brazil - which show a disheartening 28% increase - point to a chronic lack of government oversight and commitment to tackle the problem. Moreover, forest degradation - where trees are removed selectively preserving the appearance of the forest - is increasing at a far faster rate and threatens diversity.
Mechanisms in Brazil to regulate forestry do not work and illegal documentation has flourished, says Astrini. "The situation has improved. But it's gone from truly awful to just bad. That's not much progress," he says. The government now seems to believe that 5,000-6,000km2 of deforestation per year is acceptable, he says.
Moreover, deforestation continues to take place against a backdrop of slave labour and land conflicts with indigenous peoples. Close ties to agro-industry have already persuaded the government to water down legislation and emasculate the Federal environmental agency IBAMA, he notes. The government devolved key powers to individual states in 2007. But Brazilian states are poorly funded and ill-equipped to monitor and punish infractions and politics at a local level in Brazil are rife with corruption. The Amazon state of Pará (roughly twice the size of France) has just 20 forest rangers, he says. Power must be returned to the centre, he believes.
"The Federal government needs to admit to the scale of the problem. And it needs to do this soon. One day the wood will run out".