The Amazon – the rainforest most critical in leading the world’s efforts in tackling climate change and preserving natural forest treasures, has seen a substantial drop in deforestation rates.
The National Institute of Space Research of Brazil (Inpe) presented on Thursday new satellite data that showed deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by 33.6% in the first six months of the reign of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or January-June 2023. The figure is compared with the same period in 2022 when the country saw a record rate of deforestation when Jair Bolsonaro was still president.
The percentage suggests that the rainforest shrank by 2,649 sq km during January-June 2023, down from more than 3,980 square kilometers cleared in the first six months of 2022 – an area five times the size of New York City during Bolsonaro. During the same period last year, deforested land was the highest figure going back to at least 2016.
Inpe also highlighted that June saw a record 41% drop in forest clearance compared with the same period last year.
Brazil’s current President Lula took office in January 2023 after Bolsonaro was ruling the country from January 2019 till December 2022. According to statistics, between August 2019 and July 2021, the Amazon lost more than 34,000 square km (8.4 million acres), excluding the losses from natural forest fires.
His presidency has been tied to record deforestation rates. During his ruling, Amazon deforestation reached a 15-year-high as Bolsonaro called for mining and farming in protected areas, weakened environmental regulation, and cut funding to key ecological institutions. The amount of Amazon being cleared was around 75% higher in 2022 compared to 2019 before Bolsonaro took office.
On the other end, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to reverse the policies of his far-right predecessor. Earlier this year, he decreed six new indigenous reserves, banning mining and restricting commercial farming there. However, indigenous leaders stressed that more areas needed protection.
Even though deforestation rates reportedly dropped, according to the statistics, fires were up. In June in the Amazon, 3,075 fires were detected – the highest number since 2007. One of the most frequent reasons is fire being started deliberately to clear a forest for agriculture or pastures. Dry biomass left after clearing a forest is also fuel for natural fires during summer seasons.
Even though the efforts of Lula to stop deforestation in the Amazon are paying off, the rainforest is still being cleared at an alarming rate. Brazil is dominating the statistics in global deforestation, therefore further measures need to be set in place to reduce the clearing of these vital for the world forests.