Amazon deforestation reaches 11-year high under Bolsonaro

Katie Ramirez
November 22, 2019

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil surged to almost 10,000 square kilometers in the year to July 2019 - the highest in more than a decade, officials said Monday.

Between August 2018 and July 2019, deforestation reached 9,762 square kilometers (3,769 square miles), the National Institute for Space Research said.

The area of deforestation is the largest recorded since 2008 and is about the size of the USA states of DE and Rhode Island combined.

Those comments are unlikely to inspire confidence among critics of Salles or his boss, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has not yet commented publicly on the new set of numbers. Bolsonaro has advocated loosening protections for natural reserves and indigenous lands in the rainforest as a way to boost economic development. In a high-profile dispute, then-INPE chief Ricardo Galvao stood by the data and called Bolsonaro "a joke of a 14-year-old boy that is not suitable for a president of Brazil".

"It is unacceptable that the Amazon is still being destroyed", the WWF conservation group said in a statement.

Researchers at the University of Lancaster and the Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil, collected evidence from the Brazillian Governments DETER-b deforestation detection system, which calculates deforestation by interpreting images taken by NASA satellites.

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In July and August, fires in the Amazon region spread at a pace unseen since 2010, before slowing in September.

While a number of UK-based retailers have stopped purchasing meat products from Brazil in an effort to combat further damage to the rainforest, manufacturers have come under fire for their use of palm oil, which has been linked to illegal deforestation.

As fires raged a few months ago, Bolsonaro sent the military to help battle some blazes and banned most legal fires for land-clearing in the Amazon for two months.

Professor Jos Barlow, lead author of the paper said: 'The marked upturn in both active fire counts and deforestation in 2019, therefore, refutes suggestions by the Brazillian government that August 2019 was a normal fire month in the Amazon'.

He condemned the practice of illegal land-grabbing and mining that had escalated the level of deforestation in the Amazon and called for the global community to come together to counter its destruction. The officials reported that the Para region suffered the worst deforestation out of the nine regions that together make up the Amazon in Brazil.

Salles' recognition that deforestation is indeed on the rise comes after months of the government casting doubt on preliminary monthly data showing destruction was skyrocketing.

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