Thursday, 16 Oct, 2008 Environment

Spy Planes, Satellites and Radars to Bust Amazon Vandals


Brazilian police hope to bust a whole international drug group with the help of high-tech spy-plane that flies hundreds of feet over the clouds of the Amazon forest. It is worth mentioning that several weeks ago Brazilian police managed to arrest a pilot who landed a Colombian plane on a secret airfield in the Amazon rainforest. It turned out that the plane transported 300kg of cocaine.

The government of Brazil looks forward to use intelligence and technology as the main weapons to tackle illegal actions in the Amazon.

In order to preserve the Amazon rainforest and prevent deforestation, forest fires and drug trafficking, authorities observe pictures taken by satellite and aerial photography. The Amazonian Protection System, which was launched in 2003, has in its arsenal hundreds of climate sensors, satellite telephones and broadband Internet connections. The $1.4 billion project helps cover 5.2 million square kilometers of forest.

The conference room at Sipam's headquarters features on its walls a number of images of the areas most affected by logging. The photos were made with the help of infrared cameras mounted on Air Force planes. These images are going to be the main weapon to be used in court against illegal loggers. With the help of high-resolution images, police can spot paths where illegal loggers are going to chop trees.

According to Brazilian analysts, about 86 percent of the Amazon will be scanned by the end of the year.

Ricardo Augusto Silverio dos Santos, a representative of Abin, Brazil's secret service, mentioned that an improved air traffic control along with the law that came into force in 2004 allowing air force to bring down suspect aircrafts, helped reduce the level of drug trafficking by air. At the same time he added that they have to face another problem related to drug trafficking by boat.

Currently Sipam is setting new observation equipment along the key waterways and getting ready counter-narcotics operations.

Despite the efforts, the problem linked with illegal logging still remains. More men, equipment and roads are needed to take prompt actions. Each year areas, the size of Connecticut, are being chopped down.

Different donations to Amazon conservations could help preserve the area. Last month Norway pledged $7 billion donation over seven years. The only countries that possess satellite images take from radars that see through clouds are Germany and Canada.

"If they really want to help the Amazon, they could make their satellite images available," said Marcelo de Carvalho Lopes, head of the Amazon Protection System.

Source: New Scientist

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