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News > Brazil

Brazil's Space Agency Head Fired Over Amazon Deforestation Data

  • An aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon at the Bom Futuro National Forest in Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2015.

    An aerial view of a deforested plot of the Amazon at the Bom Futuro National Forest in Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 August 2019

Experts warned that the deforestation was mostly due to activity by illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under President Jair Bolsonaro.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached 2,254.8 square kilometers in July, an area 278 percent larger than the surface affected by the phenomenon in the same month last year, according to the latest estimates of the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) updated Tuesday.

'Bolsonaro is Responsible for the Amazon' UN Rapporteur Says

According to INPE's projection, which captures monthly data through a system of alerts on alterations in the forest cover of the Amazon, deforestation went from 596.6 square kilometers in July 2018 to 2,254.8 square kilometers last month.

Inpe had already reported an 88 percent increase in deforestation in June compared to the same month in 2018, data that was publicly questioned by the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro.

The publication led to the dismissal of the former head of the institution, Ricardo Magnus Osorio Galvao on Monday. The Brazilian president claimed that Galvao was “at the service of some nongovernmental organization,” with the intention of harming both Brazil and its government.

The government replaced him with Darton Policarpo Damiao, a Brazilian Air Force (FAB) officer, as interim head of the institution on Tuesday.

Reports on deforestation, however, are available to anyone through INPE's Real-Time Amazon Deforestation Detection System (Deter) which issues monthly deforestation and degradation alerts.

The numbers show that the deforestation registered in July (2,254 square kilometers) is equivalent to more than a third of the total area decimated in the last 12 months, between August 2018 and July 2019 (6,833 square kilometers).

Since campaigning for last October's elections, Bolsonaro has been outspoken in favor of greater "flexibility" in Brazil's environmental policies and his positions have received criticism in the international community.

In recent weeks, the far-right president has reiterated his intention to allow artisanal mining in the indigenous lands of the Amazon states in order to boost the economy in the region, a measure widely criticized by non-governmental organizations.

Environmentalists have repeatedly warned that Bolsonaro’s government is dismantling conservation agencies, has shown skepticism about fighting climate change and cut the budget to enforce environmental laws.

Brazil’s environmental protection agency, IBAMA, which has been starved of funds in recent years, lost authority when he took office in January, and the forestry commission was moved to the Agriculture Ministry, which is run by farm industry allies.

Last Friday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said that Bolsonaro was directly responsible for the suffering of the Wajapi indigenous people and the subsequent murder of its leader, Emyra Wajapi, on July 22.

n the Amazon basin, about 1,300 Wajapis have been traditionally living in a protected territory which is rich in iron, copper and gold. According to Brazilian law, these indigenous people are the only economic agent authorized to exploit gold in a sustainable way in their territory.

However, on several occasions, the far-right former captain who became president has called on the private sector to "exploit" the mineral resources of the Amazon.

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