Brazil '98: Introduction
Brazil '98: Participants
Brazil '98: Map of Brazil
Brazil '98: Itinerary
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Introduction
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rio de Janeiro
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rondonio
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Roads to hell
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Deforestation
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Acre
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The working day of a Rubber Tapper in Acre
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The Chico Mendes story
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Manaus
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Para
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Dam Busters
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The Gold Rush and bombing of air strips
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Brasilia D.F.
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rio de Janeiro and the return
Brazil '98: Debates
Brazil '98: Sponsors
Brazil '98: Brazil Facts


The media has been full of stories about forest burnings recently. Most attention has focused on Indonesia and Borneo in Asia. The El Niño natural phenomenon has been highlighted as a major contributory factor. But recent reports also suggest that there are nearly as many fires in the Brazilian Amazon as there were during the record burning season in the late 1980s. There are doubts about whether such data can be a reliable tool for estimating the extent of deforestation.
The US Government’s NOAA - 12 Satellite recorded more than 24,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon between early August and mid-September 1997. This is the height of the burning season. It is estimated that this represents a 28 per cent increase on levels for 1996. This is being blamed on the increase in activity by Asian logging companies in the Amazon as Asian stocks of timber are nearing depletion. The El Niño phenomenon is also blamed for creating dryer conditions in the tropics.
Yet a study by the Institute for Environmental Research in the Amazon in 1995, concluded that ‘the incidence of burning cannot necessarily be taken as a direct indicator of deforestation rates’. This study recorded data on the incidence of burning using field visits, interviews, mapping and satellite techniques. Results showed that for the most part fires did not lead to new deforestation. Instead, they occurred in areas which had already been cleared.
Although it is acknowledged that satellites can also underestimate burning rates by being unable to detect fires underneath the forest canopy, the accuracy of deforestation predictions from satellite imaging cannot be assured.