Friday, July 10, 2020

Amazon sets new record in deforestation alerts in June

The Amazon recorded 1,034.4 km² of area under deforestation alert in June, a record for the month in the entire historical series, which began in 2015. In the accumulated half year, the alerts indicate devastation in 3,069.57 km² of the Amazon, an increase of 25% compared to the first half of 2019.
The data are from the Real-Time Deforestation Detection System (Deter), the National Institute of Space Research (Inpe), updated on Friday (10).
Alerts until June 2020 indicate:
-signs of devastation in 3,069.57 km² of the Amazon this year
-increase of 25% from January to June, compared to the same period of the previous year
-increase of 64% in the accumulated of the last 11 months, compared to the previous period (one month from the official closure of deforestation, alerts indicate a trend of increase in devastation)
-The number of June is 10.6% higher than that recorded in the same month in 2019
-Compared to May, there was an increase of 24.31% compared to the same month of 2019, which had also been a record for the period.
The data serve as an indication to the inspection teams about where there may be environmental crime. The figures do not represent the official rate of deforestation, which is measured by another system, released once a year.
Brazil faces pressure from foreign investors to reduce deforestation in the Amazon. The Federal Public Ministry (MPF) is asking for the removal of the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, for the crime of administrative misconduct. According to the MPF, there is "intentional destructuring of environmental protection structures".
On Thursday (9), Vice President Hamilton Mourão told investors that Brazil seeks to reduce deforestation, but data show an increase in the trend of deforestation.
In the last 11 months, deforestation alerts have grown by 64% compared to the same period before. There were more than 7,500 km² of forest with signs of deforestation. In the previous period, it was 4,500 km².
The data indicates that the official rate of deforestation in the Amazon, measured from August one year to July of the following year, should be higher than that recorded in the previous period, when 10,129 km² were deforested, the largest area since 2008, when 12,911 km² of forest was felled.
"Deforestation continues to increase and 2020 figures will be much worse than in 2019. The official rate is expected to be 30% higher than last year, which was already the worst year in a decade. Since then, we have had GLO last year, GLO this year, and nothing has resolved because there is really no concrete commitment to combat environmental crime," says Carlos Rittl, senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany.
GLO is the acronym for the decree of "Guarantee of Law and Order". The missions are carried out by the Armed Forces, by express order of the Presidency of the Republic. In the Amazon, the Army provides support and security to ibama inspectors, so that they are not targeted by criminals. The most recent GLO was signed in May this year, valid until June 10 – still, the two months were high in deforestation alerts.
"It's only now that it's clear the risk of Brazil losing investments, in an hour that we're going to need resources coming out of the pandemic, that the government starts saying it's worried. But until last year, they fought with numbers, fought with Inpe, fired the head of Inpe, fought with science, fought with satellites, but not with environmental criminals," Rittl said.
In the accumulated this year, from January to June, Inpe recorded a 25% increase in deforestation alerts, compared to the same period last year.
The data indicate that environmental crime continues to occur, even in the period when the country faces the coronavirus pandemic.
"You can't hide what the satellites show. We have more deforestation and more fires, even in a period of pandemic. Environmental criminals are not quarantined," Rittl said.
This points to another environmental risk in the Amazon: burning. With so much wood cut, the tendency is for the material to be burned to make room in the forest. Data from the Queimadas do Inpe Program already indicate an increase in fire outbreaks, even before the period when fires are most active in the Amazon, between June and September and October.
In June, outbreaks of fires in the biome were the largest for the month in the last 13 years, according to Inpe. There were 2,248 active outbreaks, an increase of 19.6% compared to the same month last year, with 1,880 outbreaks.
According to Rittl, what was burned in June was probably cleared in April – in general, it takes two months for the woods and leaves to dry up, since the Amazon is a humid forest.
"The deforestation figures in June are a good indicator of what will come from fires in the coming months," Rittl said.
For Alberto Setzer, coordinator of Inpe's burn monitoring program, "90% of everything that will burn is still ahead." "Whether it's going to increase or decrease depends on a number of factors, such as climate and enforcement," Setzer said.
"Even if no square meter is burned in the current fire season that runs until September – as the Vice President of the Republic Hamilton Mourão expects when proposing again the moratorium on fires in the Legal Amazon this year – the greatest damage has already been done," says wwf-Brazil Director of Conservation and Restoration, Edegar Rosa.
The government this year released a national plan against deforestation, effective until 2023. The document, with 25 pages, was elaborated on five axes: zero tolerance to illegal deforestation, land regularization; territorial planning; payments for environmental services; bioeconomy. There are no clear goals or deadlines.
According to environmentalists, the focus on these actions could combat environmental crime. In 2019, only 0.5% of the deforested area was legal, according to MapBiomas' Annual Deforestation Report. In the hands of criminals, the Amazon lost an area equivalent to 1,900 natural forest soccer fields last year, on average.
While the crime occurs, fines for illegal deforestation in the Amazon have been virtually suspended since October 2019, when the government established that they should be reviewed in conciliation hearings. According to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, only five of these hearings have been held nationwide since then.
Without supervision, there may be increased shackle. A survey by the Amazon Research Institute (Ipam) and the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) indicates that the Amazon has 23% of forest on unaccounted public lands illegally registered as private property. The percentage represents 11.6 million hectares of public forests "taken" over 21 years (1997-2018). Altogether, the Amazon has 49.8 million hectares of forests without destination.
The NGO HUman Rights Watch says deforestation and burning in the Amazon are linked to a network of criminals who pay for labor, large machinery such as chainsaws, tractors, chains, trucks, and for the protection of armed militia against those who try to report crimes. According to the NGO, criminals threaten indigenous people, farmers, public officials and even police officers.
G1 - 10/07/2020 News Item translated automatically
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