Saturday, August 29, 2009


Relentless pursuit of money and ever expanding markets for food grains in a world with fast growing population, forests become the first casualty as more fertile lands are being sought to plant edible crops. During the past 11000 years since organized agriculture started in this planet, more than 50% of the area under the forests has been lost. Between 1990 and 2000 over 94 million hectares of forests disappeared due to human activity and many believe that in another 20 years 40% of the existing forests also will be lost unless pragmatic efforts are made to check this mindless juggernaut. Brazil, which has the enviable record of being the fastest destroyer of forests for taking up soy and corn cultivation, lost in the process about 13 million hectares of forest coverage last year.

Why this alarm about deforestation? "Deforestation, a critical contributor to climate change, effectively accounts for 20 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions and 70 percent of the emissions in Brazil. Halting new deforestation, experts say, is as powerful a way to combat warming as closing the world's coal plants.But until now, there has been no financial reward for keeping forest standing. Which is why a growing number of scientists, politicians and environmentalists argue that cash payments — like that offered to Mr. Marcolini — are the only way to end tropical forest destruction and provide a game-changing strategy in efforts to limit global warming". An NGO in Brazil is offering $12 per hectare of forests not destroyed to the farmers but the economic calculations do not seem to have convinced the farmers so far about desisting from deforestation.

Is there any lesson learned from the Brazilian experience? No matter what policy measures are taken to preempt deforestation through coercive action, only economic incentives can be effective in the long run. It is not for nothing that rich countries are thinking in terms of providing economic aid to poor countries of the world to desist from cutting down forests which are considered a global resource for controlling green house gases in the environment. It should be the aim of national governments to bring down the CO2 levels in their countries through such interventions for the sake of survival of this planet.


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