Amazon deforestation at 15-year high, says NGO

deforestation Pasture in the Amazonian state of Parná. Photo: Marcio Isensee/Shutterstock
Pasture in the Amazonian state of Pará. Photo: Marcio Isensee/Shutterstock

Data released by environmental NGO Imazon last week shows that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is at its worst level in 15 years.

In the first five months of the year, the Brazilian Amazon lost 3,360 square kilometers of forest, according to Imazon’s SAD satellite monitoring system – the equivalent of more than 2,000 football pitches per day. In May alone – the first month of the region’s dry season, when deforestation tends to surge – Imazon recorded 1,476 square kilometers of deforestation.

Deforestation is highest in the state of Amazonas, which is where journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered earlier this month. Pará, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia are the next most affected.

Under the current government, deforestation levels have hit successive highs as President Jair Bolsonaro has gutted environmental law enforcement agencies, dismissed Brazil’s conservation laws as too stringent, and encouraged the activities that drive illegal deforestation.

The coordinator of Imazon’s Amazon monitoring program, Carlos Souza Jr., warns that the situation is likely to worsen further still in the coming months, due to both the start of the dry season and the upcoming elections. “An electoral year is another context which is related to an increase in destruction, as inspections tend to decrease,” he says.