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Amazon Deforestation Rises 28% in 2013

11/15/2013 - 11h35

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JOHANNA NUBLAT
FROM BRASILIA
GIULIANA MIRANDA
SPECIAL ENVOY TO WARSAW

After four years in decline, deforestation in the Amazon region rose again. Preliminary figures from Prodes (Project for Monitoring the Brazilian Amazon Forest by Satellite) and INPE (National Institute for Space Research) show a 28% rise in the cutting of trees between August 2012 and July 2013 in relation to the previous period.

It is the first increase since 2008, when an 11% increase in deforestation was registered over the previous period. Prodes released in 2012, as a comparison, a 29% reduction compared to the previous number.

Despite the growth, the result announced on Thursday (14) by Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, indicates that the deforested area (5,843 km2) is the second lowest number recorded in over twenty years, behind only to what was registered in 2012 by Prodes (4,571 km2), the lowest deforestation rate since the start of monitoring, in 1988.

The rise in deforestation is announced in parallel to the COP-19 (Climate Change Conference) event which runs until the 22 in Warsaw, Poland.

The Minister said growth had been detected in the past by sector institutions, but the deforestation rate is "unacceptable". And, she said there is no investment cut for monitoring.

"The oscillation is not related to funds cuts in monitoring from the federal government," said the Minister. According to her, 4,000 criminal cases were opened by IBAMA in the period evaluated by Prodes 2013.

Without naming people, who could be responsible, the minister criticized the region administrators. "I ask the States and municipalities to engage in the issue of deforestation. Why do not they see deforestation in thousand of hectares?

The Minister said that the region "Amazon Legal" had at least a thousand federal government agents, while "there are states that have placed six agents to work".

The highest rates of deforestation were recorded in the states of Mato Grosso (52%) and Roraima (49%). In kilometers, the deforested area, however, was lead by Para (2,379 km2) and Mato Grosso (1,149 km2).

According to what the minister explained, the deforestation profile in Mato Grosso is in medium sized areas (100-300 acres), on private property, given that it indicates the expansion of farmland for soy cultivation.

Now Pará is having a new profile, with the return of large polygons (over 1,000 hectares) deforested, predominantly around the road BR 163, which may indicate illegal occupation for speculation. "IBAMA embargoed these polygons, because there is evidence of infraction, with coordinated intelligent actions."

Illegal logging and mining may have also contributed to deforestation, evaluates the Minister.

CRITICISM

Environmental NGOs are attributing the increase to the Forest Code approval. For activists, the laws passed were a setback, by reducing protected areas and giving amnesty to owners who had deforested reserved areas before 2008.

"The approval of the Forest Code is mainly responsible for this increase. A message sent to loggers is clear: you can deforest because in Brasilia someone can guarantee this for you," says Márcio Astrini, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator, participating in the COP in Warsaw. "People making business deals agree with deforestation."

The Minister says there is no relationship between the growth seen and the new Forest Code. "With the previous code, I had the highest deforestation rates."

Translated by SIMONE PALMA

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