Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon surges 22% to reach 15-year high
- 13,235 square kilometres of the Amazon rainforest was lost to deforestation from August 2020 to July 2021
- Average annual deforestation in the Amazon from 2009 to 2018 was 6,500 square kilometres
- Since Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the average has surged to 11,405 square kilometres
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest increased by 22% from the last corresponding period and reached its highest levels in 15 years, official data published on Thursday confirmed. According to data from the National Institute for Space Research’s Prodes monitoring system, 13,235 square kilometres of rainforest was lost from the period between August 2020 and July 2021.
This comes in the backdrop of the President Jair Bolsonaro-led government’s recent efforts to boost environmental credibility, including promises to end illegal deforestation at the UN climate summit and other commitments to United States President Joe Biden.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had not surpassed 10,000 square kilometres in a single year for over a decade before Bolsonaro’s term began in 2019, recording an average of 6,500 square kilometres between 2009 and 2018.
However, the annual average has nearly doubled to 11,405 square kilometres since his term began, with the total area deforested in the three years since bigger than the US state of Maryland.
“It is a shame. It is a crime,” Márcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental nonprofit groups, told The Associated Press. "We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy.”
Bolsonaro promised to develop the Amazon when he took office and dismissed global concerns about the destruction of the rainforest. He has rendered environmental authorities toothless and backed laws that loosen land protection, empowering land-grabbers.
Data gathered so far for the 2021-2022 period indicates a worse fate for the forest. Deter, the space agency’s monthly monitoring system, has detected higher deforestation for September and October compared to 2020. While data from Deter is less reliable than Prodes, it is seen as a leading indicator.
“This is the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with fantastical speeches and actions of greenwashing abroad,” Mauricio Voivodic, WWF's executive director for Brazil, said in a statement after release of the Prodes data. “The reality shows that the Bolsonaro government accelerated the path of Amazon destruction.”
(With inputs from the Associated Press)