DATE: July 2, 2019
SNIP: Amazon deforestation accelerated more than 60% in June over the same period last year, in what environmentalists say is a sign that the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro are starting to take effect.
The rate of rainforest destruction had been stable during the first few months of Bolsonaro’s presidency but began to soar in May and June, according to Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE), a government agency whose satellites also monitor the Amazon.
769.1 square kilometres were lost last month – a stark increase from the 488.4 sq km lost in June 2018, INPE’s data showed. That equates to an area of rainforest larger than one and a half soccer fields being destroyed every minute of every day.
More than two-thirds of the Amazon are located in Brazil and environmental groups blame far-right leader Bolsonaro and his government for the increase, saying he has relaxed controls on deforestation in the country.
During Bolsonaro’s election campaign, he promised his government would focus on recovering the Brazilian economy and said he would look at ways of exploring the Amazon’s economic potential. Six months after his inauguration, the populist president is certainly delivering on his promises.
“The strong indication of the increase in the deforestation rate during the government of Jair Bolsonaro shouldn’t surprise anyone,” Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the environment NGO network Observatorio do Clima (Climate Observatory) said. “It’s, after all, the accomplishing of a campaign promise: Bolsonaro was the first president in all of Brazil’s history to be elected with an openly anti-environmental and anti-indigenous speech”.
Rittl says loggers, farmers and miners emboldened by Bolsonaro’s pro-business stance have jumped on the opportunity, taking advantage of reduced controls and less oversight to seize control of a growing area of land within the Amazon forest.