Brazilian Amazon deforestation dipped in July, remains 'alarming'

Greenpeace picture showing smoke billowing from a fire in the Amazon forest in the municipality of Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil. (Photo: AFP)
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 1.5 percent last month compared to July 2021, but remained near record levels, drawing new warnings from environmentalists about the surging destruction of the world's biggest rainforest.اضافة اعلان

Satellite monitoring detected 1,476 square kilometers (570 square miles) of forest cover destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon in July, an area 25 times the size of Manhattan, according to figures released Friday by the national space agency's DETER monitoring program.

That was down slightly from the 1,498 square kilometers detected in July last year, but still the fifth-worst month since the program began in 2015.

The other four worst months on record are July 2019, 2020 and 2021 and August 2019 -- all with deforestation of more than 1,400 square kilometers, and all under President Jair Bolsonaro.

Critics accuse the far-right leader, who is up for reelection in October, of fueling deforestation by slashing environmental enforcement and vocally backing the agribusiness and mining industries accused of driving the destruction.

Since Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent from the previous decade, despite mounting warnings about the health of the rainforest -- a massive "carbon sink" considered a vital resource in the race to contain climate change.

"It's alarming to see such high rates of deforestation at a time when we are already experiencing the effects of climate change -- droughts, extreme temperatures, floods," said Edegar de Oliveira of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil.

"The Bolsonaro administration is entering its final months with record environmental destruction," he said in a statement sent to AFP.

July typically marks the start of the most intense season for deforestation in the Amazon, when drier weather allows more clear-cutting.

The high level came despite the fact the space agency, INPE, published the figures only through July 29, with two days left in the month.

Deforestation was also high in the Cerrado, a biodiverse tropical savanna to the south of the Amazon.

In the 12 months through July, 5,426 square kilometers were destroyed there, an increase of 11.5 percent from the previous year, according to INPE.

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