May begins the dry season in the Amazon rainforest, making it easier for loggers and other industries to cut trees.
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest increased for a third consecutive month in May, preliminary government data showed on Friday, as President Jair Bolsonaro has yet to deliver on his April pledge to increase funding for the environmental law enforcement.
Deforestation soared 67% in May from the same month last year, according to Brazil’s national space research institute INPE, with much of the land targeted for cattle ranches, farms and lumbering.
For the first five months of the year, data shows deforestation increased 25% from the previous year, with 2,548 square kilometers (949 square miles) destroyed – an area more than three times the size of new York City.
Deforestation peaks during the dry season – May through October – when it is easier for illegal loggers to access the forest for valuable timber.
Bolsonaro pledged at an Earth Day summit in April to double funding for environmental law enforcement. The next day, he signed the 2021 federal budget which cut environmental spending.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles immediately submitted a proposal to the Economy Ministry to increase environmental spending, but this request has gone unanswered for more than a month.
Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters news agency.
Deforestation in the Amazon increased under Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019 and called for the development of protected nature reserves and criticized environmental law enforcement.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has negotiated with Brazil on potential fundraising efforts to conserve the Amazon. But US officials say they don’t expect immediate action.
“Unfortunately, the Bolsonaro regime has overturned some of the environmental law enforcement,” US climate envoy John Kerry said at a congressional hearing last month. “We had this conversation. They say they are now committing to increasing the budget.
“If we don’t talk to them, you are assured that this forest will be gone. “
Bolsonaro’s strategy to protect the Amazon has relied heavily on costly military deployments that began in late 2019. But the government withdrew the armed forces in late April, failing to bring deforestation back to pre-levels. Bolsonaro.
Environmental agencies like Ibama are once again taking the initiative in forest protection, but the government has not increased their funding or staff.
Marcio Astrini, head of the Climate Observatory’s environmental advocacy group, said increasing deforestation is proof that Bolsonaro’s recent pledges to protect the Amazon should not be taken seriously.
“It seems like a more empty speech,” Astrini said.
The rainy season, which is drier than usual, added to the peril for the Amazon rainforest, lasting approximately from November to April, increasing the risk of serious fires. INPE data shows that the most threatened area is in an area known as the “deforestation arc”.
“The rainy season is already over and it was a bad rainy season,” said Marcelo Seluchi, a meteorologist at the Ministry of Science’s disaster monitoring center. “The fire season is likely to be bad. “