Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon was the most for a September since records began, government data from last month showed on Friday, as fires in the region spiked to a decade high.
Satellite data from the Brazilian space research agency INPE showed that 1,455 square kilometers were cleared in the Amazon last month.
The area cleared last month in the largest tropical forest on the planet is 48% greater than that of September 2021, according to data from the DETER satellite monitoring system, from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), whose series begins in 2015.
And it slightly exceeds the previous record for the month of September (1,454 km2), registered in 2019.
Preliminary figures on Friday also showed record deforestation for the first nine months of the year, according to INPE, with 8,590 square kilometers from January to September, equivalent to an area 11 times the size of New York City and an increase 22.6% compared to last year.
“The area of deforestation alerts is already 4.5% higher than that verified in all of 2021 and can equal or exceed in the three months that remain the historical record of 2019 (9,178 km2),” the NGO Observatório do Clima said in a statement.
Annual statistics released last year showed that deforestation had already spiked to a 15-year high under President Jair Bolsonaro.
Experts blame the far-right leader, who is currently running for reelection, for rolling back environmental protections, opening the way for loggers and ranchers to illegally clear more of the Amazon.
During the tenure of Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, the average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 75% compared to the previous decade.
Brazil’s Justice Ministry told Reuters that it has been running a police operation since last year to combat illegal deforestation and forest fires and to protect indigenous lands.
“Any person who cares about the future of the jungle, the life of indigenous peoples and the possibility of having a habitable planet should vote to remove Bolsonaro from the presidency on October 30,” said the executive secretary of the Observatory, Marcio Astrini, in a statement.
The leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won in the first round of the elections with 48% of the votes, compared to 43% obtained by Bolsonaro, a result that forced to define in a ballot.
Former President Lula (2003-2010), whose environmental record is also the target of criticism, promised to increase the greenhouse gas reduction goals agreed by Brazil in the Paris Agreement, reactivate the Amazon Fund of international financing to protect the forest and combat deforestation, among other measures.
Bolsonaro’s campaign defends the legacy of the current head of state, claiming that he “balances environmental protection with fair and sustainable economic growth.”
Impacts of deforestation
The acceleration of deforestation had “quite relevant impacts not only for the biome, but also for the region’s climate and rainfall regime, as well as economic impacts for those who live in the Amazon and in Brazil as a whole,” said Mariana Napolitano, scientific manager of WWF-Brazil.
The annual fire season in the Amazon occurs in August and September, when fires tend to increase due to less rain, allowing ranchers and farmers to burn areas to deforest them.
Last month, INPE’s fire alerts reached the highest monthly level since September 2010.
With information from AFP and Reuters