Brazil Unveils New Technology to Curb Logging
"Our goal is stop all illegal logging," Minister Marina Silva told reporters at a conference in Sao Paulo. "This system is more transparent and more efficient."
Brazil has been widely criticized for failing to stop illegal logging in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest. Environmental groups say the paper documents previously required to transport timber and other forestry products were too easy to falsify.
Greenpeace showed just how easy it was last year when it bought 30 tonnes of illegally harvested timber in the Amazon and delivered it to police in Sao Paulo, more than 1,600 miles (2,600 km) to the south.
Silva said the new electronic system will reduce fraud because all forestry products traveling on Brazil's roads must be registered in a central database with the Environment Ministry and the Environmental Protection Agency, known as Ibama.
However, several workers at Ibama have been implicated in illegal logging operations. One illegal logging ring uncovered last year in Mato Grosso, on the southern border of the Amazon, involved dozens of Ibama workers.
Another illegal ring involving 24 Ibama employees was uncovered in Rio de Janeiro this week. Silva says the government has been working to root out what she refers to as "bad public servants."
Some environmentalists expressed doubts about whether the new system was ready to go and questioned Silva's decision to start using it in September.
"The government announced this transition without adequate preparation at a time when illegal forestry activity is already at high levels," Greenpeace said.
Silva said annual deforestation figures will be published soon and that the deforestation rate may fall this year even more than last year, when it declined 30 percent.