Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has devastated an area the size of Qatar in the months from August 2021 to July this year. This is according to new official figures released in Brazil. In general, they show a slight decrease in deforestation compared to the previous year, but at the same time a sharp increase under the outgoing right-wing extremist President Jair Bolsonaro.
Data collection through satellite images
The latest data from the national space agency INPE on the world’s largest rainforest shows that exactly 11,568 square kilometers of forest area in Brazil’s Amazon region have been cut down, cleared or otherwise devastated. This is an 11.3 percent drop in destruction from the corresponding period earlier, when the agency identified 13,038 square kilometers of deforestation – a 15-year high. Once a year, INPE collects the official deforestation figure using satellite images taken between August of the previous year and July of the current year. This number is always announced in November.
The numbers now published are the last in Bolsonaro’s term of office, which ends on December 31. Deforestation increased sharply under his government. In his first year in office, it rose from 7,536 square kilometers to 10,129 square kilometers. This increase had provoked sharp criticism from environmentalists in Brazil. Instead of addressing the concerns, the government drastically reduced the budgets of the control authorities.
The outgoing Brazilian head of state, Jair Bolsonaro, also leaves behind a heavy environmental legacy
The new deforestation figures also show that the Amazon region is heading for a “tipping point”, warns Mariana Napolitano, the scientific director of the Brazilian office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “A significant reduction in deforestation is imperative for humanity in the face of the twin climate and natural crises the world is facing,” she said in a statement. Most of the clear-cutting and fires that are devastating the Amazon are primarily intended to create new rangeland—particularly for cattle ranches. Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter.
Future President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva with Marina Silva who could again become his Environment Minister
Bolsonaro’s successor, left-wing Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has vowed to reduce deforestation to zero during his tenure. Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 75 percent during his first presidency from 2003 to 2010. It was a feat many experts credit to respected former Environment Minister Marina Silva. Silva could now return to office.
sti/AR (afp, kna)