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The Amazon Lost Forest Area One‑Third the Size of Belgium to Agriculture, Mining in 2019‑20

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Dec 1, 2020

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Image credit: iStock

More than 11,000 square kilometers of the Amazon rainforest were destroyed in 2019-202 due to mining and agriculture. This is the largest area razed since 2008, according to the Brazilian space institute, INPE.

Environmentalists place the blame for the dramatic rise on current Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro’s weakening of environmental enforcement efforts. In order to encourage agriculture and mining activities in the region, Bolsanaro has cut funding to federal agencies with the power to arrest and fine farmers, loggers, and others who break the law.

“This is an area a third the size of Belgium – gigantic areas of forest that are being lost simply because under Bolsonaro those who are doing the destroying feel no fear of being punished,” Carlos Rittl, a Brazilian environmentalist who works at Germany’s Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, told The Guardian. Rittl went on to describe the numbers as “humiliating, shameful and outrageous.”

This annual measure of deforestation is known as PRODES and was put together by comparing satellite images from August 2019 to July 2020. These dates must coincide with the Amazon’s dry season so that the cloud cover doesn’t interfere with satellite imagery and calculations.

In comparison, Brazilian vice-president Hamilton Mourão stated that the amount of area razed increased only by 9.5% this year — far less than the 20% the government had anticipated.


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The Amazon rainforests are home to about 3 million species of flora and fauna, plus 1 million indigenous people. The rainforest is also a vital carbon sink that traps carbon dioxide and slows the global warming process.

“This is an even worse number than [2018 to] 2019 and a direct reflection of the Bolsonaro administration’s anti-environmental policies which have weakened the monitoring agencies and used misguided strategies to fight deforestation, such as deploying the armed forces rather than environmental protection agents,” Cristiane Mazzetti, a Greenpeace spokesperson told The Guardian.

As of now, Bolsanaro’s main attempt to stop the rainforest’s destruction is to send the Brazilian army to the region to fight environmental crime. It is expected to remain there until April 2021, but reports allege that its presence has had no deterrent effect.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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