Brazil’s Amazon deforestation hits record for month of April

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Deforestation detected in the Brazilian Amazon broke all records for the month of April, and that followed similar new records set in January and February, reflecting a worrisome uptick in destruction in a state deep within the rainforest.

Satellite alerts of deforestation for April corresponded to more than 1,000 square kilometers (nearly 400 square miles), the highest figure for that month in seven years of record-keeping and 74% more than the same month in 2021, which was the prior record.

It marked the first time that deforestation alerts have surpassed 1,000 square kilometers during a month in the rainy season, which runs from December to April.

“The April number is very scary. According to Suely Araujo (senior public policy specialist, Climate Observatory), a group of environmental organizations, April is traditionally a month that sees less deforestation because it has a lot more rain.” The Associated Press was informed by Suely Araujo.

The data come from the Brazilian space agency’s Deter monitoring system, and correspond to the first 29 days of April. Next week, full-month data will be made available.

Deter data previously showed 430 square kilometers of deforestation this January, more than quadruple the level in the same month last year. In February, it reached 199 square kilometers, up 62% from 2021.

The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and an enormous carbon sink. It is being feared that the destruction of this rainforest will release large amounts of carbon into our atmosphere. This will make it harder to stop climate change.

Amazonas state led deforestation in April, overtaking the states of both Para and Mato Grosso for only the second time on record. This is especially worrying as Amazonas lies deep within the rainforest, and is untouched by the deforestation arc that runs along the areas of agriculture and cattle-raising.

“Amazonas is still a very preserved state. “If deforestation occurs there, control over a area that is not in the traditional region of deforestation will be lost,” Araujo (an ex-president of Brazil’s environmental regulator) said via phone.

Amazonas’ destruction has been concentrated in the southern part of the state, where President Jair Bolsonaro has promised to pave a 400-kilometer (250-mile) dirt stretch of the BR-319 highway that connects the cities of Manaus and Porto Velho. Real estate speculation has fueled anticipation of the paving. Land grabers engage in massive deforestation in hopes that these areas can be used for cattle-raising or agriculture in the future.

A study released last week by the BR-319 Observatory, a network of environmental non-profits, revealed a nearly 3,000 -kilometer (more than 1,800 mile) network of secondary roads in reach of the highway. These roads are used to reach areas that land grabpers and loggers want.

Historically, the opening and paving of highways has been the main driver of Amazon deforestation. Access to land is easier and more profitable, making it possible for cattle-raising as well as other economic activities.

“We need a regional development model that is compatible with environmental protection. Araujo stated that the solution does not lie in paving roads. He said that governance needs to be completely changed, although the reverse is already happening. The reality is that crime has become a part of the Amazon. Crime is the reality.”

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