Deforestation down 27% since 2011
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest has dropped to its lowest level in 24 years, the government has said.
Satellite imagery showed that 1,798 square miles of the Amazon were deforested between August 2011 and July 2012, environment minister Izabella Teixeira said.
That is 27% less than the 2,478 square miles deforested a year earlier. The margin of error is 10 percentage points.
Brazil's National Institute for Space Research said the deforestation level is the lowest since it started measuring the destruction of the rainforest in 1988. Some 63% of the rainforest's 2.4 million square miles are in Brazil.
The space institute said that the latest figures show that Brazil is close to its 2020 target of reducing deforestation by 80% from 1990 levels. Through July 2012 deforestation dropped by 76.26%.
George Pinto a director of Ibama, Brazil's environmental protection agency, told reporters that better enforcement of environmental laws and improved surveillance technology are behind the drop in deforestation levels.
Mr Pinto said that in the 12-month period a total of 2,000 square meters of illegally felled timber were seized by government agents. The impounded lumber is sold in auctions and the money obtained is invested in environmental preservation programs.
The environment minister said that starting next year Brazil will start using satellite monitoring technology to detect illegal logging and slash-and-burn activity and issue fines.
For Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace co-ordinator in the Amazon region, "the lower figures ... make it perfectly clear that deforestation is not only necessary but perfectly possible".
"But the numbers are still too high for a country that does not have to destroy one single hectare in order to develop," he added.