WASHINGTON More than 27 million acres of the world’s tropical forests are destroyed each year, mostly by poor people trying to meet “their daily survival needs,” researchers said today.

Scientists estimate 40 percent of the tropical forests have been cleared, with forested areas exceeding the size of Austria lost annually, said a report by the World Resources Institute, The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

In many developing countries, tropical forests will “all but disappear in two or three decades if present trends continue,” the task force report said, adding that destruction could affect 556 million acres by the end of the century.

“Tragically, it is the rural poor.. . who are the primary agents of destruction as they clear forests for agricultural land, fuel wood and other necessities,“ it said. “Lacking other means to meet their daily survival needs, rural people are forced to steadily erode the capacity of the natural environment to support them.”

The task force recommended a five-year, $8 billion program to save the forests, with much of the money intended to help people living in or near the forests in 56 countries where the problem is most severe.

The report, “Tropical Forests: A Call for Action”, called on development assistance groups and international lending institutions to provide half the money, with the rest coming from the private sector and governments of tropical countries.

“The deforestation occurring in the tropics today is one of the great tragedies of our time,” said task force member T.N. Khoshoo, former secretary of the environment in India. “It is a classic example of a Third World problem the industrial nations cannot afford to ignore.”


Article extracted from this publication >>  October 25, 1985