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New satellite information from Brazil has revealed a sharp increase in the rate of destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.

The information, collated from satellite data, shows the speed of deforestation increased by 40% between 2001 and 2002 to reach its highest rate since 1995.

Figures from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show more than 25,000 square kilometres of forest were cleared in a year - mainly for farming.

Environmentalists have expressed alarm at the development which represents a sharp reversal of a trend in which destruction had been slowing.

"The rate of deforestation should be falling, instead the opposite is happening," said Mario Monzoni, a project co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth in Brazil.

Environmental organisations say one major cause is the spread of large-scale soya farming in the southern Amazon.

Soya production is growing rapidly in the area as a crop that offers large profits for farmers and gives a sizable boost to Brazil's trade accounts.


2002: 9,840 square miles (25,476 sq km) lost

2001: 7,010 square miles (18,166 sq km) lost
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