Worst-ever February rainforest data for Brazilian Amazon

An official inspects a log extracted from the Amazon rainforest, at a sawmill in Brazil, during an operation to combat deforestation. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRASILIA - Brazilian Amazon deforestation reached its worst-ever February level in the second month of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s presidential term, provisional data showed on Friday.

Surveillance satellites had detected 209 sq km of forest destroyed, according to the INPE space research institute’s Deter monitoring system.

This is an area equivalent to about 30,000 football fields.

The INPE report included data only up to Feb 17, but there was already an increase from the previous worst February, in 2022, when far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro was still in office.

In January, Amazon deforestation was down 61 per cent from a year earlier, according to the same source.

But experts warned at the time it was premature to talk of a “reversal” of the deforestation trend, partly because some forest loss may have been unobserved due to heavy cloud cover.

The February increase may partly reflect forest losses that were unobserved in January, WWF Brazil expert Daniel Silva told AFP.

Over Mr Bolsonaro’s presidency, average annual deforestation increased by 75 per cent compared with the previous decade.

Mr Bolsonaro instigated policies that favoured the agriculture and logging industries mostly responsible for deforestation.

Having previously governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010, Mr Lula took office on Jan 1, 2023, with a promise to rebuild the government agencies tasked with protecting the environment after severe budget and personnel cuts inflicted on them by Mr Bolsonaro. He also announced an ambitious goal of zero deforestation by 2030.

In order to do so, he is counting on international aid, notably through the Amazon Fund, to which Germany and Norway are the main contributors. AFP

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