Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil experienced a substantial decline in August, reaching its lowest level since 2018, as announced by Environment Minister Marina Silva on Tuesday. This marks a significant achievement for the country’s environmental policy, given that deforestation tends to surge during this period.
According to satellite data from Brazil’s space research agency INPE, approximately 563 square kilometres (217.38 square miles) of rainforest were cleared during August, representing a 66.1% reduction compared to the same period in the previous year. INPE’s data for the first eight months of the year also revealed a cumulative 48% decrease in deforestation compared to the same period in 2022.
These findings provide President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with reason to celebrate, as he had promised to halt deforestation in the Amazon by 2030 after witnessing a surge in destruction during the tenure of his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who significantly scaled back environmental protection efforts.
Lula expressed his satisfaction with the decline on social media, attributing it to the efforts of the Environment Ministry and the federal government.
While some experts had concerns that the substantial drop in deforestation during the first seven months of Lula’s administration might be jeopardized by increased destruction in the drier months of August and September, early indications suggest that these concerns have not materialized.
Deforestation in the Amazon has far-reaching consequences, including the loss of biodiversity, adverse effects on indigenous communities and their health, increased CO2 emissions, soil erosion, flooding, desertification, pollution of rivers and lands, and disruptions to the global water cycle.
Brazil recently hosted a significant rainforest summit, during which eight Amazon nations agreed on a set of unified environmental policies and measures to enhance regional cooperation. However, they did not reach a consensus on a common goal for ending deforestation.
Lula has made improving Brazil’s environmental reputation a focal point of his international efforts. On Tuesday, he signed the demarcation of two new Indigenous lands as part of his initiatives to reverse certain policies implemented by Bolsonaro, who suspended land recognition during his tenure. This recognition grants legal protection to the two Indigenous reservations, safeguarding them against invasions by illegal loggers, gold miners, and cattle ranchers.
The Brazilian government has also initiated the largest operation to remove cattle, thousands of which are owned by illegal land grabbers, from the indigenous territory. Criminal groups have attempted to obstruct authorities by igniting fires, damaging bridges, and intimidating drivers. The government has deployed three helicopters, a dozen vehicles, and a heavily armed contingent of police and environmental rangers for this effort.
Known as Operation Eraha Tapiro, which translates to “Ox Removal” in the Assurini Indigenous language, the mission aims to regain control of the Ituna-Itatá Indigenous Territory. This region has experienced extensive deforestation and invasions, particularly during the tenure of former President Jair Bolsonaro. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change has launched a campaign against illegal miners, seeking to remove them from Indigenous territories under state protection.