Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest — the largest in the world — hit a year-on-year record in September as far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was preparing to face off against his popular leftist rival in the recent presidential election.
Brazilian space research agency INPE reported on Friday that 1,455 square kilometers (562 square miles) of the forest were cleared last month.
This represents an increase of 48% on September 2021 and surpasses the previous record for the level of deforestation in the month of September set in 2019.
From January to September a total of 8,590 square kilometers of the Amazon was cleared — equivalent to an area 11 times the size of New York City.
Environmental protections at stake in vote
Fires are common in the Amazon in August and September as rains subside and ranchers and farmers burn off parts of the land that have been cleared of rainforest.
INPE recorded the highest number of fire alerts in September this year since September 2010.
Experts have pointed to the rolling back of environmental protections by Bolsonaro that have allowed illegal clearings to increase.
The accelerating deforestation became clear after the far-right lawmaker took power. The loss of the Amazon not only plays a significant role in global climate change but also means a loss of biodiversity in one of the world’s richest biomes.
The forest clearances have “pretty relevant impacts not only for the biome, but also for the weather and the region’s rainfall regime, as well as economic impacts for those who live in the Amazon and Brazil as a whole,” Mariana Napolitano, WWF-Brasil’s science manager said.
The president is now headed to a runoff vote against former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva following an inconclusive first round of voting on October 2.
Lula has pledged to strengthen environmental protections if he wins.
ab/sms (Reuters, dpa AFP)
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