According to data from the National Space Research Institute (Inpe), deforestation in the Amazon reached record highs in the month of June. 1 034.4km² are facing the threat of logging, the highest level ever and 10.6% higher than during the same period last year. The data was released a day after foreign investors demanded that the Brazilian government do more to protect the forest.
The devastation of deforestation in the first semester of the year was 25% higher than in 2019, reaching 3 069.57km², equivalent to an area twice the size of the city of São Paulo. The 11-month tally shows an increase of 64%.
A virtual conference that took place on Thursday 9 July brought together representatives of foreign investment funds and Brazilian Vice-President Hamilton Mourão, who is the director of the Amazon Council. The investors sought a commitment on behalf of the government against deforestation and illegal fires, in compliance with the Climate and Forest Code, as well as public access to data about the destruction.
It wasn’t the first time that Brazil was called out for not preserving the forest. In June, 30 investment funds demanded that the government contain the spread of deforestation. The pressure is also coming from national enterprises. At the beginning of the week, 40 Brazilian businessmen signed a letter that was sent to Mourão, in which they expressed concerns about Brazil’s negative image abroad.
After the meeting with investors on Thursday, Mourão said that these demands stemmed from commercial interests that seek to harm Brazilian agriculture. Ironically, the comments came after the vice-president asked these investors for money to help with preservation efforts. “Obviously, those who are bothered by the advancement of Brazilian production will seek to, somehow, impede that this production continues to evolve.”
On Friday 10 July, after the record-setting numbers were released, the vice-president changed his tone. He admitted that efforts to combat the devastation came too late this year.
“I already stated on several occasions that actions against deforestation needed to have started in December of last year. I have also stated that we will move forward with this type of work until the end of 2022 or until the people doing the cutting realise they can’t keep doing this.”
Mourão complained about the lack of human and financial resources. “Our oversight entity today has 300 employees. How are you going to operate with 300 employees?”
Organisations that defend the environment have been sounding the alarm to this problem since the start of the Jair Bolsonaro government. Marcio Astrini, the executive secretary of the Weather Observatory, says that Brazil is undergoing its worst period ever when it comes to preservation.
“While these leaders make an effort to fool everyone that they are protecting the Amazon, the numbers show another reality, that the government is collaborating to destroy the world’s largest tropical forest.”
In a press release, the Weather Observatory pointed out the fact that these results were registered two months after the start of the Green Brasil Operation, which placed the army inside the Amazon, “in theory, to combat the environmental crisis.” On Friday 10 July, a decree extended the operation until 6 November.
WWF Brazil also reacted to the numbers. The organisation highlights the fact that the data from Inpe shows the deforestation occurred not only on private and public land, but also in areas of conservation, “where there should be stricter control”, according to their chief scientist, Mariana Napolitano.
The non-profit’s director of conservation warned: “Even if they don’t burn a single square metre for the rest of the year, like vice-president Mourão hopes through his ban on even the legal practice, the damage has already been done.”
On its website, WWF Brazil listed the reservations that suffered the most, and all are located in the state of Pará. According to the non-governmental organisation, the government has for a while had access to information that pointed to this scenario, yet did nothing to prevent it from coming about.
Edited by Rodrigo Chagas. Translated by Ítalo Piva
This article was first published in Brasil de Fato.