Increasing deforestation in the Amazon reveals outdated development model | WWF
Increasing deforestation in the Amazon reveals outdated development model

Posted on 30 November 2020

Data from August 2019 to July 2020 points to the government's failure to stop environmental crime in the forest.
São Paulo, 30 November, 2020 - Data released today by Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) shows that between 1 August, 2019 and 31 July, 2020, 11,088 km2 of forest were deforested in the Legal Amazon. This is a 9.5% increase compared to the previous period (2018/2019), when the clear cut destroyed 10,129 km2. In 2018, it was 7,536 km2. The 2020 value represents a record for the decade, yet the pace of chainsaws in the forest does not stop.

The figures are from the Prodes system (Project for Monitoring Deforestation in the Legal Amazon by Satellite), which for decades has brought precise data on the destruction that is advancing in the largest tropical forest on the planet. This number is an estimate based on 102 priority scenes. The consolidated data will be released in the first half of next year.

The figures captured by the system this time refer to the deforestation that occurred entirely in the time of the current government and demonstrates the total detachment of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century related to the forest.

"The clear focus on agriculture and mining is further evidence that the current government's strategy is based on the development model of the 1970s, when the notion of bioeconomics did not even exist", says Mariana Napolitano, Science Manager for WWF-Brazil.

According to Napolitano, imposing an outdated occupation model instead of researching and exploring the rich biodiversity of the Amazon, for instance, keeps Brazil from going beyong exporting low-value commodities. “Looking at the Amazon through the lens of the 21st century opens new opportunities - including for agribusiness”, she says.

There are solutions to reverse, in the short term, the trend of increasing deforestation in the region. Two important coalitions of civil society organizations (involving business, academics and NGOs) pointed out concrete paths for the federal government, though it did not embrace any of them. They include prohibiting the regularization of illegal occupations on public lands that occurred after 2008, resuming enforcement and effective punishment of offenders, removing invaders from protected areas, promoting actions to encourage sustainable use of the forest, among others.

There is also a need for the development of the region with social inclusion and respect for indigenous rights - solutions that are fully aligned with the pressing need to keep the forest standing.

Deforestation in the Amazon poses a growing risk to indigenous populations and traditional communities, constantly threatened by illegal land grabbers and miners.

Official data show that 2019 and 2020 had the lowest number of penalties for illegal deforestation in two decades. This is reinforced by the expectation of regularization, generated by the current government, of activities that are currently illegal, such as recent invasions of large tracts of public land that would benefit from changes in the rules for land tenure regularization, and mining in protected areas, as foreseen in the bill 191/20, proposed by the Presidency of the Republic. According to Inpe, 30% of the deforestation in 2019-2020 happened in undesignated public forests.

What is PRODES
PRODES system defines as deforestation the complete removal of primary forest cover by clear cutting, regardless of the future use of these areas. What is known, however, is that most of the deforestation  in the Amazon is illegal, linked to crimes of land grabbing, illegal logging and illegal mining.

The deforestation rate is made up by the data generated by the Project for Monitoring Deforestation in the Legal Amazon by Satellite (Prodes). The mapping uses images from the Landsat satellite or similar to record and quantify deforested areas larger than 6.25 hectares.

The consolidated rate, however, will be presented until the end of the year or when the processing of all 229 scenes (locations) covering the Legal Amazon is completed.
Aerial view over the tropical rainforest showing deforestation as a result of industrial logging, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil.
© Staffan Widstrand / WWF