Brazilian Amazon: environmental awareness higher in deforested areas

Posted on agosto, 31 2001

People living in areas of the Brazilian Amazon with the highest deforestation rates are also the most aware of the value of the forest.
Brasilia, Brazil - People living in areas of the Brazilian Amazon with the highest deforestation rates are also the most aware of the value of the forest.

These are both the findings of a comparative analysis of the states' and municipalities' deforestation rates, and the results of an opinion survey on social and economic development and environmental conservation, carried out in the Brazilian Amazon region by WWF-Brazil in partnership with ISER, a Brazilian NGO specialized in surveys.

According to the report, the only exception is the state of Acre in general and its capital city Rio Branco in particular, where it is possible to link the high value attributed to forests with the adoption of the new idea of forestship (forest + citizenship). This law has been promoted by the state's government, whose programme is based on the sustainable use of forest resources.

Other factors, such as greater exchange with other regions and countries may also influence the population's opinion on environmental issues.

Ecotourism emerges as an attractive alternative to other economic activities that have already caused forest destruction and have thus declined or been abandoned in the area.

WWF-Brazil's CEO, Dr. Garo Batmanian analyzed the deforestation rates in each one of the 9 municipal districts of 3 states where the population survey was conducted - Acre and Rondonia (Southwest Amazon) and Pará (eastern Amazon) - and related them to the priorities their inhabitants have for the region as a whole.

He realized that the people from Acre are more in favor of maintaining the forests than those from Rondonia and Pará.

This becomes more evident in the capital city of Acre, Rio Branco. When questioned about which was their top priority for the Amazon region, 44 percent of the interviewees in Rio Branco chose forest conservation.

In Acre, 33 percent of the surveyed people said forest destruction caused the greatest damage to the region.

The state of Acre still has 91 percent of its original forest cover and a greater part of it is still intact.

Rondonia, the most deforested Amazonian state, has lost 31 percent of its forests and most of the remaining areas are degraded.

This is similar to what happened in Pará, the second most deforested state in the Amazon region, with 18 percent of its forests having been lost.

In both of these states, it is where the deforestation rate is the highest that people tend to value the most forests and environmental quality.

The highest number of ecotourism enthusiasts was found in Rondonia. After the predatory cycles of mining and logging, ecotourism is seen by Rondonians as a more lasting economic alternative. To ensure the viability of ecotourism, however, it is necessary to maintain the remaining forests.

In Belém, the capital city of Pará, the 61 percent of the surveyed people favoured proposals focused on sustainable development (especially forest conservation and ecotourism).

This high environmental awareness rate may be due to the fact that Belém is the main gateway to the Brazilian Amazon Region.

For further information:

Regina Vasquez, Communications Officer, WWF-Brazil, e-mail: ; Tel +55-61-364-7483