Brazil is on track to reach a new Amazon deforestation record in 2022, according to a report released by NGO Imazon last week. Record levels of forest destruction in the Amazon were noted in January and February. Traditionally, these months have lower deforestation activity as it is a period of intense rainfall.
Last year, the total number of devastated areas was already the highest in 14 years. A law was approved in 2021 that favors the legalization of irregular occupations, and experts believe that the proximity of elections has increased the rush to occupy forest lands.
Since Jair Bolsonaro became president in 2019, several measures have led to decreased powers and resources for environmental watchdogs. With the possibility that this may be his last year in power, some are in a race to take advantage of his permissiveness.
Deforestation reached the highest rate in fifteen years last month, with rates that were 70 percent higher than February 2021. The year-on-year increase in January was 33 percent, according to Imazon satellite image monitoring.
“This increase is extremely serious in view of the climate emergency we are experiencing, since deforestation contributes to global warming, which in turn intensifies climate change that causes extreme events,” says Imazon researcher Larissa Amorin. “In Brazil, we already had heavy rains last year that caused deaths and destruction in Bahia, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, and Rio de Janeiro.”
In the state of Mato Grosso, there was a 300-percent increase compared to February last year, with 96 square kilometers of forest destroyed. According to Inpe, the national space research institute, more than 600 square kilometers of Brazilian forest was under deforestation alert in the first two months of 2022.