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Amazon deforestation at highest level since 2008

It follows a series of major fires in the region earlier this year.

Smoke rises from the forest during a fire near the town of Caneiras do Jamari in Brazil
Smoke rises from the forest during a fire near the town of Caneiras do Jamari in Brazil
Image: DPA/PA Images

DEFORESTATION IN THE Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil surged to nearly 10,000 square kilometers in the year to July 2019 – its highest level in more than a decade, officials have said.

The 29.5% increase from the previous 12-month period comes after fires ravaged swathes of the Amazon this year, igniting a global outcry and diplomatic feud between President Jair Bolsonaro and European leaders.

Satellite data collected by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that 9,762 square kilometres were cleared of trees, INPE officials told AFP.

That is the highest since the same period in 2008.

Para was the hardest hit of the nine states that make up the Amazon in Brazil, with nearly 4,000 square kilometres deforested.

Previous data showed that clearing in the Amazon nearly doubled in the first eight months of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, to 6,404 square kilometres.

Greenpeace blamed the dismantling of environmental protections under Bolsonaro for the sharp increase in deforestation.

Bolsonaro’s “government is throwing away all the work that has been done in recent decades for environmental protection,” said Cristiane Mazzetti, a Greenpeace campaigner in Brazil.

Pro-business Bolsonaro took power in January on a promise to open up more of the Amazon to loggers, miners and farmers.

Faced with criticism over the fires and tree clearing, Bolsonaro accused non-government organisations of starting the blazes, and France and others of threatening Brazil’s sovereignty over the rainforest.

- © AFP 2019

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