The Amazon basin is the largest tropical rain forest in the world made up of several geographical regions. The upland areas are known as shields and as high as a thousand meters and are separated by the main river to the east. These two shields are the Brazilian shields and the Guiana shields. The rest of the area is a sedimentary basin that is below a thousand meters and accounts for thirty-five percent of the basin’s drainage.
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Originally; over two million square miles of the basin were covered by dense tropical forest and for ages and still today its vastness and inaccessibility have offered protection to part of the forest. The world’s largest river in volumes of water is the Amazon. It forms a network that permeates almost half of southern America. It’s four thousand and eight miles long after the Nile in Africa. It has more than one thousand tributaries, of which seven of them are more than a thousand miles long and drains more than half of Brazil. The total drainage is over two million seven hundred and twenty-two thousand square miles which are about a third of South America. Species of fish are estimated to be over two thousand. It’s the home of arapaima fish which weighs around four hundred pounds and the anacondas and only a few of this region’s flora and fauna are known to science (Medina, p.24).
There are few sizeable cities along river banks such as Iquitos; Peru which is scattered and Manaus in Brazil, but a large portion of the basin is unoccupied. Plantations have been cleared in the jungles over the past and the natives search for rubber and nuts. Ranching and Soya beans plantations have been occupied the most extensive non-forest use of land. In this case, trees are not cut down thus it’s a sustainable human impact on the forest. But in the last thirty years, the government has sponsored trans-Amazon highway building projects, colonization schemes, and industrial developments that have all transformed this region into polluted factory sites and with intense settlements.
Chico Mendes is famous worldwide as an Amazon native known for defending the forest and its indigenous people in the Amazon basin which led to his death by people who were not pleased with his protectionism activities. Total forest cover loss grew from forty-one thousand and five hundred kilometers squared to five hundred and eighty-seven thousands kilometer squared from the year 1991 to 2000; most of the loss being attributed to cattle ranching with over ninety-one percent being used for cattle ranching in the 1970s’.Soya beans production by farmers has adopted transportation projects in the Amazon. There before, the construction of two highways led to deforestation and a settlement increase. The average annual deforestation is said to have risen by eighteen percent from 2000 to 2005, and it’s argued that in the next two decades, the annual deforestation would be at forty percent. This was according to the Guardian newspaper article “drought threatens Amazon” dated 12th December 2006.
The Amazon has great economic importance. It’s said that one hectare of the Peruvian Amazon has a value of six thousand eight hundred and twenty dollars on fruits, timber, and also latex, and if cleared would be worth one thousand dollars of timber and one hundred and forty-eight dollars on cattle pasture. With the current rate of deforestation, the indigenous people have disappeared with others like urarina struggling to maintain their culture and survive in the degraded region. Drought has been reported due to extensive logging causing loss of flora and fauna. But recently, there have been concerted efforts to conserve the Amazon leading to deforestation rates decreasing to 60 percent from the year 2002 to 2006 with an estimated one million kilometers squared under conservation and totaling to 1.73 million kilometers squared now under conservation. Brazil created the worlds largest rainforest protected area in the northern Amazon on 12th December 2006 covering more than fifteen million hectares and engulfing a network of seven new protected reserves under the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation funding
According to the “News articles on Amazon rainforest” newsletter for 2004, The Amazon basin has been of great economic, social and environmental importance to Brazil. Two dams build in 1988; Tucurui generates around four thousand megawatts of electricity and is expected to generate more than seven thousand and three hundred megawatts once completed. The other is Balbina, which is due to start operating next year and is expected to produce two hundred and fifty megawatts. The natural rubber industry is of great importance to Brazil, where the Amazon is the most important producer in the world. Mining has also been of great importance in the twentieth century in the Amazon rainforest region. But this has increased destruction because of chemicals that pollute the rivers and the cutting down of trees to create more space for mining. Nowadays it’s agriculture mostly Soya beans cultivation and cattle-keeping activities that are widely practiced and have led to great deforestation. This is because they need wide space to practice. They are exported all over the world (Buttler).
Brazil is also famous for meat and Soya beans production, which are improving each year. Illegal activities like drug trafficking, biological trade, and woodcutting are other “economic activities” in the Amazon. It serves as a path to drug dealers. The Brazilian government has been forced to adopt the modern radar system to do air and wildfires surveillance, thus making it a military and environmental instrument to protect the Amazon. Colombia has also adopted the same policies of protection. Biological trade mainly exploits world life, usually threatening the most endangered species in the basin. Some wood is legally cut in special wood reserves where forestry engineers monitor the activity to ensure that the forest recuperates naturally. They monitor the rate, time and the species to be cut down. This is a very profitable sector and therefore very important that the wood is certified to be produced in such reserves, even if that implies more expensive wood to keep the forest as intact as possible. Such wood is used both in southern America and also some is exported to Europe which is supposed to accept only certified wood to reduce illegal logging.
Tourism is another perspective and vibrant sector that can bring great economic benefits to the region with environmental protection efforts to conserve a clean ecosystem. The governments that share this basin, mostly Brazil, should be more proactive towards eco-tourism as a gateway to economic prosperity coupled with forestry and biodiversity conservation. There also exists an indirect economic function played by the Amazon such as the environmental services of cooling the planet and ensuring balanced climatic aspects such as rainfall and freshwater conservation. Herbal medicine used in the world is twenty-five percent and more than half of one to two percent of plants researched with medicinal value comes from the Amazon. Thus the economic activities in the Amazon basin are of great importance and measures to protect, conserve and maintain that basin is of paramount importance to the economic and social development of the people around that region, Brazil (Keen)
- Dr.Cecil Keen: Greatest places physical Geography.
- Rhett Butler: 2008 an article on endangered Species in Brazil Amazon
- T. Medina, The Discovery of the Amazon, 2d ed. 1988.
- The Guardian, Drought threatens the Amazon. Web.
- The Amazon rainforest news letter, News articles on Amazon rainforest. Web.
- Amazon rainforest: plants, animals and climate.