Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon at highest level since 2008

Sao Paulo, Nov 30 (efe-epa).- Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region is getting worse under the Jair Bolsonaro administration. Between August 2019 and July 2020, deforestation in the huge expanse of tropical jungle increased by 9.5 percent compared to the previous 12 months, reaching its highest level since 2008.

The loss of vegetation cover in the bioma, which covers about 60 percent of Brazil’s territory, amounted to 11,088 square kilometers (4,262 sq. mi.) over the past year, an area larger than the countries of Lebanon or Jamaica.

The figures were released on Monday by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), a government agency, along with satellite images confirming the upward trend in deforestation in the Amazon.

The figure, which is preliminary and will only be confirmed next year, is greater than the deforested area during the August 2018 through July 2019 period, when 10,129 sq. km were cleared, and it is the worst vegetation loss since 2008, when 12,911 sq. km of forest and jungle were destroyed.

The period in question, however, is the first to fall exclusively during the administration of Bolsonaro, who entered office on Jan. 1, 2019, and he is under heavy pressure over his environmental policy, which has been the target of criticism from ecologists, large investment funds, big companies and certain European governments.

The ultrarightist leader, who defends the exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon zone, including on Indian reservations, last year cast doubt on the official deforestation statistics.

Brazil’s vice president, Hamilton Mourao, in his capacity as head of the National Council of the Amazon, acknowledged to reporters that there is no reason to “celebrate anything,” but he added that the figures show the “efforts” the government is making “are bearing fruit.”

Environmental non-governmental organizations interpreted the results differently, however, saying that it reflects “a very successful operation to annihilate the ability of the state and the financing entities” to fight crime in the Amazon.

The state of Para, in the heart of the Amazon, has 46.8 percent of the territory that was deforested, followed by the states of Mato Grosso (15.9 percent) and Amazonas (13.7 percent).

Mourao said that 45 percent of the deforestation occurred on private property and another 30 percent on public lands, “lands that were not provided to anyone” which are not conservation areas, indigenous areas or in the hands of individuals.

“That is our big problem,” he said.

“We’re going to continue with our work (until) deforestation is less than what our laws set forth,” he said. Brazil committed itself in the Paris Climate Accord, from which Bolsonaro has threatened to withdraw, to reduce illegal deforestation to zero by 2030.

The vice president admitted that this year “they started late” – in May – with efforts to combat crime in Amazonia, but he added that beginning at that time it was clear that crime was “dropping.”

In May, the Brazilian government launched operation “Green Brazil II” coordinated by the armed forces to pursue people committing environmental crimes in the Amazon and currently 3,400 army troops are participating in the effort, which has been extended to April 2021, although no drastic reduction in deforestation has yet been seen as a result.

Deforestation is closely related to wildfires in the Amazon, which have once again increased this year and so far total 99,586, significantly more than the 89,176 fires noted for all of 2019, when images of the raging blazes streamed around the world, galvanizing many organizations and governments to complain that Brazil was not doing enough to preserve the planet’s “green lung.”

The situation this year has worsened due to a severe drought in the region.

Assorted reports by environmental organizations identify deforestation and the fires as part of a process whereby landholders clear land for livestock raising and other agricultural pursuits, including lumbering, and this sector is one that Bolsonaro wants to favor even more during his presidency.


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