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Land grabbers and illegal loggers and miners are the main drivers of deforestation on Indigenous reservations, where the rainforest has been protected by law.
Deforestation on protected Indigenous lands in the Amazon was almost three times higher than the loss of trees in the region as a whole and the highest since 2008, according to a new study based on satellite imagery published Friday.
The data from Brazil's space research institute INPE studied by the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), a group working with Indigenous people, shows that between August 2018 and July 2019 deforestation on reservations reached 42,600 hectares.
That represents only four percent of overall loss of forest in the Amazon in the same period (totaling 9,762 square kilometers or 976,200 hectares), but it is a dramatic increase over previous years and the highest since this data was first collected in 2008.
According to the study, land grabbers and illegal loggers and miners are the main drivers of deforestation on Indigenous reservations, where the rainforest has been protected by law.
"Indigenous lands are a strong barrier to deforestation. Where there are tribes there are trees," said ISA's researcher who authored the study Antonio Oviedo. The expert warned, however, that year's deforestation has surged above the recent trend due to increased outside pressure on protected lands.
Bolsonaro Effect in the destruction of the Amazon reached the Indigenous Lands: 42,600 hectares of forest were cleared between 2018 and 2019!
Invasions of tribal lands have increased since last year, leading to killings of Indigenous people and ranchers deliberately setting fires aimed at clearing forest for cattle pastures, according to environmentalists, who have accused far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of advocating development of the Amazon.
Deforestation in Indigenous areas had been falling steadily since 2008, to a low point of just over 5,000 hectares in 2014, but then began to rise again. In 2017, it reached 11,000 hectares, and jumped to almost 25,000 hectares in 2018, but this year it surged by 174 percent over the average for the decade.
ISA said the vast majority of the 424 reserves studied have lost less than 10 percent of their native forests, but 20 percent have lost almost half of their forest cover and five percent have virtually no trees left.
The worst recent deforestation was detected on the Ituna-Itatá reservation south of Altamira in Para state, followed by the Apyterewa reservation in São Felix do Xingu, where the government had to send troops this year to remove invaders.