On June 21, the Brazil-based research NGO Imazon published its May 2019 deforestation report, showing that 797 square kilometers of forest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon during the month. That figure brings the 12-month running total to 4,916 square kilometers, 43 percent higher than the year-ago total.
However, data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE shows a much-smaller increase of 1 percent for the period, from 4,565 square kilometers for the 12 months ended May 31, 2018 to 4,633 square kilometers for the current period.
Brazil is now entering the peak deforestation season, which corresponds to the dry season that typically runs from mid-May to late September. During this period, deforestation may be twice as high as the annual monthly average.
Accordingly, environmentalists are closely watching to see whether the recent trend continues or accelerates. Civil society groups and conservationists are worried that President Jair Bolsonaro’s recent moves to weaken indigenous rights and environmental regulations could spur a return to the high deforestation rates of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Brazil has been widely lauded for its efforts to reduce deforestation since the mid-2000s, turning the country from a pariah in environmental circles into a model for emulation. A combination of satellite monitoring, law enforcement, creation of new protected areas and indigenous researchers, private sector action, activist campaigns, and macroeconomic factors contributed to falling deforestation rates over the period.