Brazil Amazon's forest colliding with mud

Amazon Deforestation: A Turnaround Story


A Significant Drop in Deforestation

Government satellite data reveals a noteworthy decrease in Amazon deforestation during President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term. During the first six months, alerts for possible deforestation covered 2,650 sq km, a sharp fall from the 4,000 sq km during the same period under ex-leader Jair Bolsonaro. June, marking the dry season’s onset, witnessed a 41% drop in alerts. “We reversed the curve; deforestation isn’t increasing,” said Environment Ministry’s executive secretary, João Paulo Capobianco.

Tracking Deforestation

Brazil uses the Deter system, managed by the National Institute for Space Research, for real-time deforestation detection. Data from Prodes, which provides the most accurate deforestation calculations, is released annually. “We are prioritising environmental law enforcement,” said Jair Schmitt, head of environmental protection at Brazil’s federal environmental agency, Ibama. Despite personnel shortage, progress has been made, and the agency is also using remote surveillance through satellite imagery.

Tough Measures Against Illegal Activities

To combat illegal activities, Ibama has begun seizing thousands of illegally raised cattle in embargoed areas. An immediate punishment strategy, as fines rarely get paid due to a sluggish appeals process. The value of imposed fines in the first half of the year has skyrocketed by 167%, and the agency has embargoed 2,086 areas, a jump of 111%.

Concerns Amid Reversal in Deforestation

Despite the encouraging trends, concerns persist. The Amazon witnessed 3,075 fires in June alone, the highest since 2007. These fires follow the clearing of areas deforested in 2022’s latter half and are predominantly man-made. To battle this, Ibama has increased its budget for firefighting and expanded its fire squads.

The Path Towards Ending Net Deforestation

President Lula has pledged to end net deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon by 2030. Achieving this will need more than law enforcement; investment in sustainable productive chains under community management will also be necessary. Initiatives such as managed pirarucu fishing, Brazil nuts, vegetable oils, and açai can provide decent income to those involved in conservation within their territories.

Maintaining Vigilance

Efforts to protect indigenous territories have been ramped up, particularly those invaded by illegal gold miners during Bolsonaro’s term. Despite the progress, challenges remain. As Rodrigo Agostinho, Head of Ibama, stated, “We know the fight isn’t over, we will continue doing this work.”

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