Deforestation ‘out of control’ as Brazil’s Amazon sees record levels of destruction

·2 min read
A photo issued by the WWF of illegal deforestation found in the indigenous Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau territory - PA
A photo issued by the WWF of illegal deforestation found in the indigenous Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau territory - PA

The Brazilian Amazon saw its highest level of deforestation in 2020 since records began, new figures have revealed.

According to official data, deforestation increased by 25 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2020.

This equates to approximately 1,184 square miles of rainforest, the highest figure since data collection began at the beginning of 2015, the country's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said.

The destruction has put further pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro, who is under fire for worsening destruction of the rainforest on his watch.

"The pressure is increasing," said Mariana Napolitano, advocacy group WWF-Brasil's head of science.

"The deforestation data by itself shows that we now have a very complicated situation that is out of control in the Amazon."

June, which marks the start of the dry season and fires, also hit a record with 642 square miles of deforestation, an increase of nearly 11 per cent.

If July sees another increase, Brazil is on a direct path to losing more than 9,000 square miles - an area larger than the US state of Connecticut.

That would be and increase from 6,293 square miles last year and the highest level of deforestation since 2005, according to official government data.

Mr Bolsonaro has been blamed for the destruction by environmental activists and the international community.

The nation’s hard-Right leader is accused of emboldening illegal loggers, ranchers and land speculators by weakening environmental enforcement and calling for more commercial mining and farming in the Amazon to develop the economy.

An area deforested - Reuters
An area deforested - Reuters

Mr Bolsonaro argues that he is being unfairly blamed, and that Brazil has a strong track record for preserving its natural environment.

"It's not true that we're destroying the jungle to produce food," he said.

Following extensive global pressure, Mr Bolsonaro deployed the military to help slow deforestation in May and appears set to ban fires in the Amazon region for 120 days from next week.

The military is expected to remain in the area until November, a notice published in the official government gazette on Friday said.

According to scientists, preserving the world’s largest rainforest is vital to curbing climate change because of the extensive amount of greenhouse gas it absorbs.