After several rises in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil saw a significant drop in April 2023. Despite the threat of “megaprojects” still lingering, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or Lula, vowed to continue the fight to reduce the rate of deforestation.
Compared to April 2022, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest plunged by 68 percent; the first major drop since Lula’s presidential victory last year.
According to data from the local National Space Research Institute (Inpe), 328.71 square kilometers (126.92 square miles) of forest was cleared in April, which was below the 1,026 square kilometers cleared in the same month last year, an area almost larger than the city of Berlin.
This decrease put the rate of deforestation below the historical average of around 466 square kilometers for the month. Between January and April 2023, approximately 1,173 square kilometers of forest was cut down — more than 40 percent less than the 1,968 square kilometers in the same period last year.
In January, there was a big drop in deforestation, but that was reportedly due to heavy rains. Additionally, satellite data could have been hampered from thick cloud cover.
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However, deforestation did still rise by 14 percent in March compared to 2022, Inpe’s data showed. The rates were much higher in February, which saw a 62 percent rise compared to the previous year. Worse still, the country’s second-largest biome, the Cerrado, saw an increase of 14 percent of deforestation compared to the previous year — the highest in the last five years, the Anadolu Agency reported.
Despite April’s numbers, experts warned that the annual peak in deforestation from July to September is approaching.
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Lula desires to turn Brazil into a “green superpower” by taking on illegal deforestation.
The former president’s tenure saw efforts to strike down environmental protection efforts and slashed funding and manpower to bring more farming and mining to previously protected lands, Reuters wrote.
In March, after being sworn in, Lula declared “Brazil is back”, bringing back authority of the government’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, to tackle illegal deforestation. He also struck hard on illegal mining by ridding the country of a measure that encouraged such activities on protected Indigenous lands.
Moreover, Lula also revived a billion-dollar Amazon fund, financed by Norway, Germany and the U.S. for sustainability projects. In May, he managed to secure an 80 million-pound ($100.97 million) contribution from Britain to the fund.
Lula’s plan will also involve increased satellite imagery to detect illegal activities, along with government databases with financial intelligence to identify money transactions from “unsanctioned operations” in the rainforest, al-Jazeera reported.
“There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon,” he told the COP27 climate conference in November.