Brazil sets another Amazon deforestation record, prompting alarm

Environmentalists say Amazon loss in April, equivalent to some 140,000 football fields, is very high for this time of year.

A pile of logs illegally cut from Brazilian Amazon
An aerial view shows logs that were illegally cut from the Amazon rainforest in Anapu, Para state, Brazil, September 2, 2019 [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]
A previous version of this story stated that the loss amounted to an area equivalent to 1,400 football fields. That was incorrect. It is an area equivalent to 140,000 football fields.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has surged to a new record for the month of April, official data showed, as environmental rights advocates continue to slam President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies for accelerating the crisis.

Amazon deforestation totalled 1,012.5sq km (390sq miles) from April 1 to 29, according to data from the national space research agency INPE released on Friday. The agency will report data for the final day of the month next week.

The loss amounts to an area equivalent to about 140,000 football fields, and it is by far the biggest for April since record-keeping began in 2015.

The record – the third in four months – also marks the latest damning statistic on Amazon deforestation under Bolsonaro, who since taking office in 2019 has weakened environmental protections that he says hinder economic development that could reduce poverty in the region.

“The cause of this record has a first and last name: Jair Messias Bolsonaro,” Marcio Astrini, head of Brazilian advocacy group Climate Observatory, said in a statement.

Destruction of the Brazilian Amazon in the first four months of the year also hit a record for the period of 1,954sq km (754sq miles), an increase of 69 percent compared with the same period in 2021 – clearing an area more than double the size of New York City.

Experts have also raised alarm at high deforestation rates during the rainy season, a time when loggers typically have more difficulty accessing trees.

“This figure is extremely high for this period of the year,” Mariana Napolitano, science director at the World Wildlife Fund’s Brazil office, said in a statement. “It’s an alert of the immense pressure the forest is under.”

Bolsonaro’s office and the Environment Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.

Bolsonaro, who is seeking re-election in highly anticipated October polls, has faced international condemnation over the damage to the Amazon.

The preservation of the world’s largest rainforest is vital to curbing climate change because of the vast amount of greenhouse gas absorbed in its trees.

Last week, American actor Leonardo DiCaprio took to Twitter to urge Brazilians to vote in the upcoming elections.

“Brazil is home to the Amazon and other ecosystems critical to climate change. What happens there matters to us all and youth voting is key in driving change for a healthy planet,” he tweeted.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies