Saturday, 12 July 2008

The destruction of the rainforest

The destruction of the rainforest

BST 07/07/2008

Every year across the world a forest area the size of England, about 32m acres, is destroyed or degraded.

About 40,000 hectares - roughly 150 square miles - are logged or burned to make way for agriculture or grazing on a daily basis.

In the past 60 years greed, wanton destruction and exploitation has seen about 50 per cent of the world's rainforests disappear.

Millions of hectares of rainforest in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil and Africa containing a vast diversity of plants and animals have now been replaced by agricultural crops such as palm oil and soya.

The rush towards biofuels has helped palm oil becomes the world's premier fruit crop outstripping even the banana.

In EU countries alone it is estimated that consumption of plant-based fuels will soar from around 3m million tons at present to more than 30m tons by 2010.

Friends of the Earth says that Malaysia has becomes the world's largest producer of palm oil with almost half of its cultivated land turned over to plantations.

But it is fast being caught up by Indonesia which has about 6.5m hectares under oil palm plantation - an area which could double in size over the next 10 years.

Most of the world's palm oil is supplied by the two countries for use in food and health products but the growing demand for palm oil as a sustainable and alternative transport fuel is expected to result in even greater losses in the rainforests.

The palm oil industry is booming and global exports increased more than 50 percent from 1999 to 2004.

But the price has been the conversion of thousands of square miles of pristine and ancient tropical rainforests and most of the biodiversity they contained to regimented lines of lucrative palms.

Satellite images reveal bare and often barren areas which were once covered by thick and emerald-green forests and which teemed with life.

In many cases illegal plantations operated by criminal gangs, particularly in Indonesia, are blamed for consuming huge parts of the rainforests.

Ecologists fear that within the next 15 years, if nothing is done to stop the destruction, 98% of the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone.