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Illegal deforestation in Brazil soars amid climate of impunity

Illegal deforestation in Brazil soars amid climate of impunity

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen sharply in the past year—again. Estimates set to be released this week by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) will show clearings have increased by at least 28% during the current monitoring year, which runs from August through July, compared with the previous year.

It is the second steep hike under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has made good on his campaign promise to loosen environmental law enforcement and step up development in the Amazon.

The numbers come from Brazil’s Real-time Deforestation Detection System (DETER), which uses low-resolution satellite images to quickly identify new forest clearings and alert authorities to possible illegal deforestation. More than 8700 square kilometers (km2) of primary forest cover has already disappeared from the images since August 2019, according to data updated through 23 July, compared with 6800 km2 in the previous 12 months. (Data for the final week will be released on 7 August; because July is prime time for deforestation in most of the Amazon, the number is likely to go up some more.)

Although the system doesn’t identify the causes of deforestation, other studies show the vast majority is illegal, carried out by ranchers, loggers, miners, and land grabbers who seek to profit from the occupation and exploitation of public forest lands.
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