Annual deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon increases by 33%

Posted on August, 07 2020

Data from August 2019 to July 2020 are a preview of official figures, but points to the government's failure to stop environmental crime in the forest.
São Paulo, 7 August -- Deforestation alerts in the Legal Amazon from 1 August, 2019 to 31 July, 2020 reached 9,205 km2, 33% more than last year's alerts, according to data released today from DETER, a system of the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) that turns on an alert for inspection whenever a stretch of forest is felled.

Deter's alerts are a preview of the data that will be confirmed by the end of the year by another Inpe system, Prodes, which records the official deforestation data in the Amazon.

Between August 2018 and July 2019, Prodes showed that the Amazon lost 10,129 km², an increase of 34% compared to the previous year and the highest rate since 2008, confirming the rapid escalation of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Deforestation in the Amazon must be banned for five years, says WWF Brazil, as part of a coalition of climate and indigenous NGOs. This is one of five emergency measures proposed to tackle habitat destruction and resulting fires.

"It is a tragic record, which shows the complete lack of control over illegal activities in the region and indicates that the promise of the Bolsonaro government to dismantle socio-environmental policies, including mechanisms to combat deforestation, is being put into practice", points out Raul Valle, director of Socio-Environmental Justice of WWF-Brazil.

While the deforesters are acting fast, inspection of such activities by the government is lagging. Even with the provisions of the Law and Order Guarantee (GLO) in full force, the government's action to combat illegal deforestation has not have the promised effect.

According to Valle, “deforestation is not going to decrease only with pyrotechnics and slogans. As long as the feeling of impunity remains high, it will continue to rise. People clearly see the contradiction between speech and practice. There is no point in mobilizing the military if, at the other end, the same government tries to provide amnesty to invaders of public lands and punishes Ibama's inspectors, who are recognized for acting against environmental offenders."

Alerts point out that deforestation occurred in the nine states of the Legal Amazon. But it was worst in the states of Pará, Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Amazonas.

Among the municipalities in the Amazon that most deforested in the last 12 months are Altamira (Pará) with 717 km2, Sao Felix do Xingu (Pará) with 513km2, Porto Velho (Rondônia) with 403 km2 and Lábrea (Amazonas)with 380km2.

The uncontrolled increase in deforestation is already causing commercial problems to Brazil, devastating the country's image abroad. Foreign companies are already stopping to buy agricultural products and investors are withdrawing resources from companies that buy products from irregularly opened areas.

Internally, representatives of the largest commercial banks in the country went to the coordinator of the Council of the Amazon, the vice president of the Republic, Hamilton Mourão, demanding concrete measures to end deforestation.

This week, a group of 62 non-governmental organizations, including WWF-Brazil, made a list of five emergency measures to try to contain the problem. The document was sent to the National Congress and the European Parliament, investors and international authorities.

The letter calls for harsh actions against crime that has taken over the Amazon. Among them, the moratorium on deforestation in the Legal Amazon for at least five years, the hardening of penalties for environmental crimes and the immediate resumption of the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm). The NGOs also demand the demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands, and the creation, regularization and protection of Conservation Units. The restructuring of Ibama, ICMBio and Funai is also part of the demand.

The document recalls that past governments had managed to reverse the deforestation trend in the Amazon with inspection actions, fines and seizures, while increasing agricultural production and exports. 

For further information:
Karina Yamamoto -  WWF-Brazil Engagement coordinator -
Aerial shot showing deforestation in Amazon rainforest in Acre, Brazil, 2012.
© Greg Armfield / WWF-UK