Amazon deforestation in Brazil rose 28% in a year
Brazil says the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased by 28% between August 2012 and last July, after years of decline.
The government is working to reverse this “crime”, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said.
Activists have blamed the increase in destruction on a controversial reform to Brazil’s forest protection law.
Last year Brazil reported the lowest rate of deforestation in the Amazon since monitoring began.
The provisional statistics from August 2012 to last July suggest that the area suffering deforestation was 5,843 sq km (2,255 sq miles), compared to 4,571 sq km (1,765 sq miles) in the previous 12 months.
Despite the interruption of the decline sequence started in 2009, the latest deforested area still remains the second lowest ever recorded.
The result frustrated the government’s expectations, but several scientific institutions had suggested increases in their monthly deforestation reports.
Environmentalists say the controversial reform of the forest protection law in 2012 is to blame for the upwards trend.
The changes reduced protected areas in farms and declared an amnesty for areas destroyed before 2008.
The reform, a long-standing demand of the country’s farmers’ lobby, known as the ruralists, was passed after several vetoes by President Dilma Rousseff.
Agriculture accounts for more than 5% of the Brazilian GDP.
“If you sleep with the ruralist lobby, you wake up with deforestation,” Amazon expert Paulo Adario from Greenpeace wrote on Twitter.
Ms Teixeira said the destruction rate was “unacceptable” but denied President Dilma Rousseff’s administration was to blame.
“This swing is not related to any federal government fund cuts for law enforcement,” she told reporters, adding that around 4,000 criminal actions have been taken against deforesters in the past year.
As soon as she returns from Poland, where she is representing Brazil at the United Nations summit on climate change, Ms Teixeira said she would set up a meeting with local governors and mayors of the worst hit areas to discuss strategies to revert the trend.
The majority of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, believed to be one of the main causes of global warming, stem from deforestation.
The Brazilian government made a commitment in 2009 to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% by the year 2020, in relation to the average between 1996 and 2005.