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CAUSES OF DEFORESTATION

Deforestation is the clearing of vast areas of forest. The agents of deforestation have been actively at work. Logging companies continue to log legally and illegally. Dam builders continue damming the rivers and covering millions of hectares of forest under the dam reservoirs. Mangrove forests continue to disappear at the hands of the industrial shrimp farmers. Export-oriented agricultural crops and cattleraising activities have cleared acres and acres of forest. Industrial tree plantations such as pulpwood, timber and oil palm have resulted in the substitution of vast areas of diverse forest by alien tree monocultures. Mining and oil companies continue to destroy and pollute the forest .

However, it would be wrong to highlight only direct causes of deforestation such as logging, shrimp farming, plantations and dams. Its more important to go deeper into the matter in order to realise the underlying factors which constitute the root cause of the problem. Among these is the issue of overconsumption in the European countries, which results in an increasing demand for cheap raw materials and equally cheap farm products such as soya beans, meat or shrimps.

All these processes have resulted in severe local and global environmental impacts and all those impacts and all those impacts result in human suffering. The effects of deforestation can be seen at different levels. Firstly, it has important local negative consequences. To the people living in the forest and other forest-dependent people, deforestation implies the loss of their possibilities of survival as independent cultures. For them, the forest is their home and provides them with food, medicibes, building materials, firewood, water and all the material and spiritual elements that assure the long term survival of their community. The disappearance of the forest means the loss of these elements and consequently implies malnutrition, an increase in illnesses, dependency, acculturation, and in many cases emigration and the disappearance of the community itself.

Secondly, deforestation results in impacts at the regional level. As forests assure the preservation of water, soils, plants and wildlife in general, their destruction causes serious impacts such as extensive flooding, aggravated droughts, soil erosion, pollution of watercourses and the appearance of pests. Such

impacts affect the lives and health of people at the regional level as well as their productive activities such as agriculture, cattle-raising and fishing. Protecting the forest therefore implies supporting local peoples struggles for their rights while at the same time working to generate conditions to address the root causes of deforestation at both the national and international levels. Only when that happens, will forest be saved and forest-dependent people be able to live in peace and harmony with nature.

Finally, deforestation also implies serious consequences at the global level. Forest have important fuctions in relation to climate and their disappearance affects humanity as a whole. When trees are burnt or cut down, the carbon that has been stored up in the forest is released into the atmosphere, thereby increasing the level of carbon concentration in it and thus aggravating the greenhouse effect. Tropical forests are home to a large part of the planets biodiversity. Both animal and plant species tend to disappear together with the forest and the rate of their extinction become faster.