Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest rose 14% year-on-year in March, preliminary official data showed on Friday, highlighting continued challenges for the new government.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office on January 1, vowing to end deforestation after years of rising under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who slashed environmental protection efforts in the Amazon.
“This increase in the figures reveals that the new government needs to act urgently to rebuild its capacity to repress environmental crimes, which had been totally destroyed by the last government,” said Marcio Astrini, head of the local environmental group Observatorio del Clima.
Data from the space research agency Inpe indicates that 356 km2 were logged in the Brazilian Amazon last month.
The latest figures paint a mixed picture in the government’s fight against deforestation to date, as destruction between January and March fell to 845 square kilometers, 11% less than in 2022.
Brazil officially measures annual deforestation from August to July, to limit the influence of cloudiness that obscures satellite images of destruction during the rainy months. In the first eight months of that period, from August 2022 to March 2023, deforestation has increased by 39% year-on-year.
“There are only four months left to close the final deforestation figures. This means that a decrease in deforestation in the final rates of the Amazon in 2023 is unlikely. In fact, it has a better chance of increasing,” Astrini said.