RIO DE JANEIRODeforestation inBrazils Amazon rainforest is at its worst in more than a decade, a governmentreport said last week, undermining officials claims that concerns byenvironmentalists have been overblown.
Deforestation between August 2018and July 2019 reached 9,762 square kilometers, a 30-percent increase over theprevious year, Brazils National Institute for Space Research said.
The area of deforestation is thelargest recorded since 2008, and is about the size of the US states of Delawareand Rhode Island combined.
Concern about the Amazonheightened after President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January. Hisadministration has advocated the loosening of protections around naturalreserves and indigenous lands as a way to promote economic development.
Environmentalists and nonprofitgroups have accused the government of trying to weaken environmentallegislation, warning that deforestation would likely worsen as a result.
The Bolsonaro administration hasspent a lot of energy attacking data on deforestation.
In August, the head of the spaceresearch institute, Ricardo Galvo, was fired shortly after Bolsonaro accusedhis agency of manipulating deforestation data to make the government look bad.
The president later suggested,without citing evidence, that nongovernmental groups could be setting some ofthe fires in the Amazon to draw attention to his administration.
The annual data published by thespace research agency last week confirms the institutes earlier reports thatdeforestation was on the rise.
The latest data is actually 42percent higher than what was previously reported.
It is unacceptable that theAmazon is still being destroyed, the WWF conservation group said in astatement.
It said deforestation willaccelerate unless the Brazilian government takes robust action to prevent it.
In July and August, fires in theAmazon region spread at a pace unseen since 2010, before slowing in September.Farmers, developers and others often use fire to clear deforested land for soyproduction or pastures.
Some European leaders havequestioned Brazils commitment to tackling deforestation and argued that thefires in the Amazon required a global response because of the ecosystemscritical role in draining heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The Brazilian government hasdenied any wrongdoing and says it is taking all the steps needed to protect theAmazon, accusing France and Germany of infringing on its sovereignty.
As fires raged a few months ago, Bolsonaro sent the military to help battle some blazes and banned most legal fires for land-clearing in the Amazon for two months. Fires in the Amazon eventually fell below the monthly average in September.