Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has surged to a 12-year high under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro.
An area seven times larger than Greater London has been destroyed in just one year.
Figures released by the Brazilian space institute, Inpe, reported at least 11,088 sq km of rainforest was razed between August 2019 and July this year – the highest deforestation levels since 2008.
Bolsonaro has faced fierce criticism for his environmental policies with activists outraged by his attitude to the Amazon, a rainforest which plays a crucial role in absorbing carbon dioxide.
During his term in office, the controversial Brazilian president has urged commercial farming and mining in the Amazon, while also weakening Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency. In 2018, a year before his rise to power, 7,536km2 of forest was destroyed. His government claims these environmental policies will help fight poverty.
With the latest figures, Brazil will now miss its own target to keep deforestation to around 3,900km2.
Brazil’s vice president, Hamilton Mourão, claims the destruction is an improvement on last year. However, activists and campaigners say the damage is beyond belief, with fierce critics highlighting the destruction of protected areas, indigenous lands, and public lands.
Brazilian environmentalist, Carlos Rittl, who also works at Germany’s Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, said: “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”. He added: “Bolsonaro’s great achievement when it comes to the environment has been this tragic destruction of forests which has turned Brazil into perhaps one of the greatest enemies of the global environment and into an international pariah too”.