The Brazilian government estimates that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 29 percent over last year. That’s the second year in a row that deforestation in the Amazon accelerated. Last year, the pace rose by about 24 percent.
The estimated deforestation rate, released Tuesday by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), is based on satellite imagery. The institute found that from August 2015 to July 2016, the Amazon rainforest was deforested at an estimated rate of 7,989 square kilometers (more than 3,000 square miles). The year before, it was 6,207 square kilometers. Two years ago, it was barely over 5,000 square kilometers.
INPE acknowledged the increase but noted that the current rate represents a decrease of 71 percent, when compared with 2004. That was the year the government implemented a policy designed to curb deforestation; from 2004-2007, the rate of deforestation dropped rapidly.
Many observers had been prepared to see an increase in deforestation, but not one this high. The causes of the increased deforestation were actions taken by the federal government between 2012 and 2015, such as the waiving of fines for illegal deforestation, the abandonment of protected areas — that is, ‘conservation units’ and indigenous lands — and the announcement, which he calls ‘shameful,’ that the government doesn’t plan to completely stop illegal deforestation until the year 2030.
A lack of funding has hampered the organization that’s tasked with stopping illegal logging efforts. The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, has struggled with budget cuts as Brazil grapples with a recession.
“The loggers are better equipped than we are,” said Uiratan Barroso, Ibama’s head of law enforcement. “Until we have the money to rent unmarked cars and buy proper radios we won’t be able to work. A 30 percent cut in Ibama’s budget has meant fewer operations this year. Helicopters and jeeps have been idle due to a lack of fuel.”