RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon slowed slightly last year, a year after a 15-year high, according to closely watched figures released Wednesday. The data was released by the National Institute for Space Research.
The agency’s Prodes monitoring system shows the rainforest lost an area roughly the size of Qatar, some 11,600 square kilometers (4,500 square miles) in the 12 months from August 2021 to July 2022.
That’s an 11% drop from the previous year, when more than 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) were destroyed.
For more than a decade, it seemed like things were looking up for the Brazilian Amazon. Deforestation has decreased considerably and has never risen above 10,000 square kilometres. This was before the presidency of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, from January 2019.
This will be the last report released under Bolsonaro, as he lost his re-election bid and will leave office on January 1. But some of the destruction that has taken place under his watch won’t show until next year, including the key months of August through October. of 2022. A snapshot of those months comes from a different federal satellite system that emits faster but less accurate data: it shows deforestation skyrocketed by 45% in the August-October period of l ‘last year. Traditionally, this time of year sees a peak in destruction, due to the dry season.
An analysis of new annual data from the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental groups, shows that during Bolsonaro’s four years of leadership, deforestation increased by 60% over the previous four years. It is the largest percentage increase under a presidency since satellite monitoring began in 1998.
In one state, Para, a ferocious destruction rate fell by 21%, but it was still the center of a third of Brazil’s total Amazon rainforest loss. Some of the felling and burning of trees occurs in seemingly protected areas. One such area is the Paru State Forest, where the nonprofit Amazon People and Environment Institute recorded 2 square kilometers (0.7 square miles) of deforestation in October alone.
“In recent years, deforestation has reached protected areas where previously there was almost no destruction,” Amazon Institute researcher Jakeline Pereira told The Associated Press. “In the Paru area, the destruction is driven by the leasing of land for soybean crops and livestock.”
Another critical area is the southern part of the state of Amazonas, the only state that increased deforestation in the most recent data, by 13% compared to the previous year. This is largely attributable to Bolsonaro’s efforts to pave about 400 kilometers (250 miles) of the only road that connects Manaus, home to 2.2 million people, to Brazil’s major urban centers further south. Most deforestation in the Amazon occurs along roads where access is easier and land values are higher.
Researchers and environmentalists have blamed Bolsonaro’s policies for increased deforestation. The administration weakened environmental agencies and backed legislation to loosen land protections in the name of economic development, coupled with a view to occupy sparsely populated territory at all costs. This policy emboldened land thieves and stimulated more illegal mining.
Bolsonaro’s successor, the leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, promised cheering crowds at the recent UN climate conference in Egypt to end all deforestation across the country by 2030 “There will be no climate security if the Amazon is not protected”. he said.
The last time da Silva was president, from 2003 to 2010, deforestation fell sharply. On the other hand, he supported initiatives that sparked long-term destruction, such as the construction of the gigantic Belo Monte hydroelectric dam and generous loans to the cattle industry. Logging of forests for grazing is the main driver of deforestation.
The Amazon rainforest, which covers an area twice the size of India, acts as a buffer against climate change by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide. It is also the most biodiverse forest in the world and home to tribes who have lived in the forest for thousands of years, some of them living in isolation.
“If da Silva is to reduce forest destruction by 2023, he must have zero tolerance for environmental crimes from day one of his administration. This includes holding accountable those who sabotaged environmental governance in the country during their tenure. mandate over the past four years,” said Marcio Astrini, Executive Secretary of the Climate Observatory.
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