RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian Amazon lost 1,698 square kilometers (656 square miles) of its vegetation cover in August, an area 222 percent higher than the deforestation recorded in the same month in 2018, according to data released on Sunday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Although the total deforestation was slightly less than in the previous month, the destruction of the vegetation cover of the world’s largest rainforest continued to grow compared to last year.
In July, the area of destroyed forest in the Amazon had reached 2,254.8 km2, a 278-percent growth compared to the loss of land registered in the same month last year (596.6 km2).
The sharp increase in deforestation in July and August this year led the surface of the Amazon destroyed in the first eight months of 2019 to increase to 6,404.8 km2, an area 92 percent larger than that recorded between January and August last year (3,336.7 km2).
The INPE compiled this information using satellite images, although the agency warned that it should not be considered as the government’s official data on deforestation.
It does, however, help to spot a trend on deforestation and serve to alert agents at the Brazilian Institute of the Environment (Ibama) about where they need to focus their activities on.
The revelation that this rapid deforestation continued in August comes at a time when Brazil is being criticized by environmentalists and politicians around the world for the sharp increase in forest fires in the Amazon seen this year.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has championed anti-environmentalist policies such as decreasing surveillance in the region and allowing mining activities within indigenous reservations, among others.
According to the opposition, loggers and farmers have also intensified their destructive activities in the Amazonian region under the protection of the Bolsonaro administration.
Bolsonaro has downplayed the data released by the INPE – whose former director he fired back in July – while demanding changes in the methods used for measuring deforestation and accusing the agency’s officials of being beholden to environmentalist groups.
The far-right leader has also blamed the international controversy over the forest fires on a campaign by foreign countries seeking to dismiss Brazil’s sovereignty over the Amazon and trying to steal its wealth of natural resources.