Amazon deforestation in Brazil increases sharply, reversing progress

AFP-JIJI

Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira demanded urgent action Thursday to reverse double-digit rises of as much as 52 percent in the rate of deforestation in some Amazon regions over the past year.

Agricultural production has been blamed for the spike, but enforcement has also been lax in the giant country, around three-fifths of which is forest.

Teixeira called an emergency meeting and urged action from regional authorities after official data covering August 2012 to July of this year revealed the scale of the problem.

“We confirm a 28 percent increase in the rate of deforestation, reaching 5,843 sq. km,” she told reporters, citing an overall figure from the provisional data.

Extensive farming and soybean production in the northern state of Para and the central western state of Mato Grosso were behind the rise, the minister said, citing increases for the two states of 37 and 52 percent, respectively.

Teixeira said she will meet with senior Amazon regional environment officials next week to demand explanations and measures to take on her return from a U.N. climate change summit in Warsaw.

She also criticized the apparent ineffectiveness of monitoring by federal state authorities.

“The Brazilian government does not tolerate and does not accept any rise in illegal deforestation,” she said, insisting Brasilia is firmly committed to drastically reducing deforestation.

Although large in percentage terms, the rise in absolute terms is the second-smallest in recent years, as 2012 saw 4,571 sq. km of deforestation after a huge 6,418-sq.-km loss in 2011.

The worst year on record was 2004, when 27,000 sq. km of forest was lost.

Global agricultural production giant Brazil is caught between environmental pressures and the interests of large-scale farmers.

The country’s forestry code requires landowners in the Amazon, the Earth’s largest area of jungle, to devote 80 percent of their land to native forests, but it has not been adequately enforced and there have also been issues of identifying which areas fall under state or private ownership.

The agribusiness lobby is strong in Brazil, which needs to feed close to 200 million people.