Population and Land Preservation in Guatemala

I read with interest the special section "World Population," July 8. I recently returned from Guatemala, where I was filming a wildlife documentary for United States public TV stations, and can attest to the continual deforestation in the Peten by slash-and-burn techniques.

Your article "Growing Need for Farmland Erodes Guatemala Forest" indicates that the government of Guatemala has recently made an effort to protect the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. This is correct, however in the buffer zone which permits agriculture and other cash extraction businesses, the official figures indicate 250 to 300 people per day are migrating for this free land grab. Some are Guatemalans who have used up the limited nutrients in rain-forest soil elsewhere, but many are Mexicans and citizens of o ther Central American countries who are looking for free land for agriculture having exhausted their own.

Access to the Pets remotest areas has always been limited, so deforestation there has been slower than in Mexico. In fact, the physical border between Mexico and Guatemala is very pronounced with the Mexican side entirely brown and treeless and the Peten side a startling green. How much longer this will last at the current rate of migration and population growth is unknown.

But due to a variety of pressures, despite its recognition of the need, the Guatemalan government has no official family-planning program. Family planning is available only through non-governmental organizations and other organizations, many of them US funded, who are less concerned about religious and traditional pressures. Deborah Rivel, New York, President, Wildsight Productions

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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