The latest INPE (National Institute for Space Research) deforestation data for the Brazilian Amazon, released last Friday, comes as the result of the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro, say critics. According to DETER, INPE’s real-time forest monitoring system, from August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020, forest loss in the region totaled 9,205 square kilometers (3.554 square miles), an increase of 34.5% over the previous comparative period (2018/2019), when 6,844 square kilometers (2,642 square miles) were deforested.
DETER detected 1,654 square kilometers of forest cleared in July, 2020 alone, a decline from the 2,255 square kilometers detected the same month a year ago. Still, forest loss in the region makes the 2019/2020 deforestation year the highest since at least 2007.
“Reaching the middle of the year with so many [deforested] open areas means that this year’s official deforestation rate [to be confirmed by the Prodes system, also from INPE, in November] will be higher than last year, which hit double digits, reaching to almost 11,000 square kilometers (4,247 square miles). We can reach a number not seen by Brazil for over a decade,” stated the Institute of Environmental Research of the Amazon (IPAM).
This “season in the Amazon will not be recovered,” added Ane Alencar, IPAM director of Science. “Whoever clears the forest wants to recover their investment, and that involves burning deforested vegetation to clear the land, which will happen sooner or later, with or without a fire moratorium. Curbing fires begins with controlling deforestation.”
Most Amazon fires are set by people, and used as a tool to convert forest to agricultural lands.
Meeting between Vice President Hamilton Mourão and members of the Committee and the Board of Directors of Santander Brasil Bank in Brasília. July 23, 2020. Image by Romério Cunha/VPR (Vice Presidency of the Republic).
Also in July, the Bolsonaro government dismissed INPE researcher Lubia Vinhas, general coordinator of the department responsible for monitoring Amazon deforestation. But when asked about last month’s decrease in deforestation in relation to the firing, experts agreed that they believe the statistics to be accurate and legitimate.
“There is no indication or reason for INPE to publish politically influenced data.