Half of the Amazon is Facing Disappearance

The new Atlas “Amazon Under Pressure” was launched on Tuesday by the organizations that make up the Amazon Network of Geo-referenced Socio-environmental Information (RAISG). It contains a warning that if the threats identified with road infrastructure, oil and gas, mining or hydroelectric projects cause further pressures on Amazonian ecosystems, in the near future up to half of the current rainforest could disappear.

“If all projects driven by economic interests currently proposed come to pass, the Amazon would become a desert with forest islands,” commented the general coordinator of RAISG, Beto Ricardo, from the Brazilian Socio-Environmental Institute.

There is evidence of what is described as a ‘deforestation ark’ stretching from Brazil to Bolivia, an area where there is water pressure and oil exploitation in the Andean Amazon and a peripheral mining ring.

The pressures facing the Amazon present risks to the jungle landscape, social and environmental diversity and freshwater. These would be replaced by degraded landscapes, or converted into deserts, drier and more homogeneous areas. Between 2000 and 2010 nearly 240,000 km2 of the rainforest was destroyed.

The publication’s main objective is to overcome fragmented views of what is happening in the Amazon and provide a comprehensive picture of the pressures and threats for the entire region.

Six pressures and threats

The Atlas presents information about a combination of six pressures and threats to the Amazon in the last decade: roads, oil and gas, hydropower, mining, hot spots and deforestation.

The analysis is supported by 55 maps, 61 tables, 23 charts, 16 boxes and 73 photographs. All this information and analysis is organized into thematic chapters, with a total of 68 pages.

It was not possible to include the analysis on important issues such as illegal mining, logging and farming in this research, due to the lack of qualified and cartographically representable information for the entire Amazon. If these factors were included, the overall panorama would be even more adverse.

The publication represents a civil society-based contribution to the democratic debate on the pressures facing the Amazon, and particularly on deforestation, a topic currently being evaluated by several national governments as well as at the intergovernmental level of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization. The Amazon presented in this publication is an area of extreme social and environmental diversity, currently undergoing rapid change. It covers an area of 7.8 million square kilometers, with 12 major basins and 158 sub-basins, shared by 1497 municipalities, and 68 departments, states or provinces in eight countries: Bolivia (6.2%), Brazil (64.3%), Colombia (6.2%), Ecuador (1.5%), Guyana (2.8%), Peru (10.1%), Suriname (2.1%) and Venezuela (5.8%), plus French Guiana (1.1%).

About 33 million people live in the Amazon, including 385 indigenous peoples, as well as some populations in a state of isolation.
There are 610 protected areas and 2344 indigenous territories that constitute 45% of the Amazon, without counting small, medium and large landowners, different types of businesses, research and development institutions, as well as religious and civil society organizations.


RAISG was founded with the principal objective of encouraging and facilitating cooperation between institutions already working with geo-referenced socio-environmental information systems in the eight countries of the Amazon, and French Guiana.

The network now has 11 partner institutions. Since its inception, RAISG’s proposal was to build an adequate environment to develop a long-term, cumulative and decentralized process, which will allow compiling, building and publishing information and analysis on the contemporary dynamics of the Amazon.

This Atlas aims to consolidate a broad and inclusive regional vision, which goes beyond the Amazon in Brazil. The Andean and Guayanan countries are also considered Amazonian. It is a historic effort to analyze the issue of deforestation throughout the Amazon using a standardized methodology.

The work required regular meetings in São Paulo, Lima, Belém, Bogota and Quito since 2009 and benefitted from the support of institutions such as the Rainforest Foundation Norway, Ford Foundation, Avina and Skoll Foundation.

One of the main challenges for the institutions involved in RAISG will be to calculate the cumulative deforestation before 2000, the year taken as the baseline in the first edition of Amazon Under Pressure.

Deborah Rivett, Tuesday, 18 December 2012

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