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Plan unveiled to save tropical forests.

Each year more than 11 million hectares of tropical forests -- an area larger than Austria -- are lost to agriculture, firewood collection, rural development and logging. That loss, besides wiping out 500 to 1,000 plant and animal species per year, affects more than 1 billion people by reducing the long-term agricultural productivity of the land, contributing to deadly floods, to soil and water degradation, to fuel wood scarcity and ultimately to greater poverty, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO). And that explains the excitement engendered within the international-development community this week by a new five-year action plan to arrest and ultimately reverse this growing destruction of tropical forests.

An international task force convened by the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Resources Institute authored the plan. A report of their recommendations lists specific projects addressing the most critical individual needs of the 56 nations most affected by tropical deforestation; it includes the estimated cost of achieving these goals in each country. A 55-page appendix of case studies highlights successful small-scale projects that might serve as examples for plan implementers.

According to the plan's authors, tropical reforestation and forest management must become essential components of any long-range plan to "alleviate [the region's] hunger and deprivation, arrest dangerous assaults on the planet's environmental support system and provide the basis for sustainable economic growth."

World Bank President A. W. Clausen says the action plan "carries the Bank's full support"--despite its $8 billion price tag. The U.S. Agency for International Development, UNFAO and UNDP have also pledged to support the new action plan. Already under discussion as one of the first steps to implement the plan is a 1986 "summit" meeting of world leaders to iron out specific funding and political priorities.
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Author:Ralof, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 26, 1985
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