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Area more than six times the size of Manhattan destroyed in Brazilian Amazon in January

Deforestation levels in the Brazilian Amazon hit a new record for January.

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon
Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

DEFORESTATION IN THE Brazilian Amazon set a new record for January just three weeks into the year, according to data released today, a worrying sign of the surging destruction of the world’s biggest rainforest.

Nearly 360 square kilometres of forest cover – an area more than six times the size of Manhattan – were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon from 1 January to 21 January, said Brazil’s national space research institute, INPE.

With 10 days to go in the month, the figure was already the worst for January since the institute launched its DETER satellite monitoring program in 2015.

Environmentalists said that translated into a high risk that 2022 would be another devastating year for the Brazilian Amazon, where deforestation has surged since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019.

“A number that high in January, which is the peak of the rainy season” – when deforestation usually falls – “certainly demands attention and leaves us extremely worried,” said Claudio Angelo of the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental groups.

“We’ll have to see how the coming months go, but it’s definitely not a good sign.”

By comparison, deforestation for January 2021 was 83 square kilometres – less than one-fourth the figure for the first 21 days of January 2022.

Last year was nevertheless a terrible year for Brazil’s 60% share of the Amazon. The amount of forest cover lost during INPE’s reference period, from August 2020 to July 2021, surged almost 22% year-on-year, to a 15-year high of 13,235 square kilometres.

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It was the third straight increase under Bolsonaro, who has pushed to open protected rainforest lands to agribusiness and mining.

Bolsonaro has faced international outcry over the surging destruction of the Amazon, a key resource in the race to curb climate change.

The Climate Observatory revealed yesterday that Brazil’s main environmental protection agency, Ibama, had spent just 41% of its enforcement budget in 2021.

 © AFP 2022

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