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Ilakaka is a small but booming town in the south-west of Madagascar. After the discovery of alluvial sapphire deposits in the valley in 1998, the population boomed from 40 residents to 60,000. The sudden high profits for some led to increasing social and violence problems.
Madagascar is among the world's poorest countries. As such, people's day-to-day survival is dependent upon natural resource use. Most Malagasy never have an option to become doctors, sports stars, factory workers, or secretaries; they must live off the land that surrounds them, making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty costs the country and the world through the loss of the island's endemic biodiversity.
Madagascar's major environmental problems include:
- Deforestation and habitat destruction.
- Agricultural fires.
- Erosion and soil degradation.
- Overexploitation of living resources including hunting and over-collection of species from the wild.
- Introduction of alien species.