Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon falls nearly 10% in May

812 square km were cleared last month
calendar icon 8 June 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest fell almost 10% in May from the previous year, preliminary government data showed on Wednesday, as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration has strengthened efforts at protection, reported Reuters.

Official data from space research agency Inpe showed that 812 square km (around 313 square miles) were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon last month, less than the 900 square km reported in the previous year.

Lula assumed office on Jan. 1 promising to ramp up efforts to end deforestation in the Amazon after years of surging destruction under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

The former far-right president had slashed environmental protection efforts, cutting funding and staff at key agencies as he called for more farming and mining on protected lands.

This year through the end of May, land clearing in the Amazon fell 31% compared to the same five months of 2022, according to Inpe data.

Joao Paulo Capobianco, deforestation control secretary at Brazil's Environment Ministry, deemed the results "extremely positive" as the Amazon hosts an "extremely complex dynamic" of deforestation.

"We had assumed deforestation at an accelerated rate and we are now managing to invert the curve," Capobianco told a press conference.

The government reported the first major drop under Lula in April.

Rodrigo Agostinho, president of environmental agency Ibama, said efforts to fight deforestation had significantly increased in the first months of 2023.

Between January and May, Ibama levied some 2 billion reais ($406 million) in fines, up 160% from the annual average figure for the same period during Bolsonaro's four-year term. It also slapped embargoes on 2,255 farms for environmental wrongdoing.

Despite the falling destruction in the Amazon, deforestation in Brazil's Cerrado - a savannah biome that borders the rainforest - surged 83% in May compared with the previous year.

"May brought encouraging numbers for the Amazon, but unprecedented destruction for the Cerrado," said WWF-Brasil's head of restoration and conservation, Edegar de Oliveira. The savannah is under "heavy pressure" from the agricultural sector, he added.

On Monday, Lula's administration outlined an action plan aiming to eliminate illegal deforestation in the rainforest by 2030, which involves boosting intelligence and satellite imagery, regularizing land titles and a rural registry to monitor management of forests considered vital for slowing the catastrophic effects of fossil fuel-driven climate change.

His environmental agenda, however, met setbacks last week, when lawmakers approved a bill curtailing the powers of the country's environment and Indigenous affairs ministries.

($1 = 4.9232 reais)

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