From January to April 2020, the rate of Amazon deforestation alerts rose sharply by 55%, according to data gathered by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and its real-time satellite detection system (Deter-B).

Despite the Amazon region being a pandemic hotspot, the reduced reach and resources of environmental enforcement agencies in Brazil is believed to be emboldening illegal wood harvesting operators, who are supported by a gig economy of poorly paid, informal workers ignoring COVID-19 lockdown measures.

So what?

Contrary to the hopes of many experts, the pandemic is not slowing deforestation in the Amazon. A confluence of land owners and land speculators, middlemen and resellers, and some retailers willing to turn a blind eye continues to see contamination of the global timber supply chain with illegally cut hardwoods. The selective cutting and clearing of high value trees also involves the formation of access roads, paving the way for land speculation and the clearing of the remaining forest for cattle, soy or other crops.

Enforcement actions by the country’s main environmental protection agency, the Brazilian Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources Institute (ibama) has fallen sharply over the last two years. In 2019, Ibama reported 128 instances of environmental crimes, a 55 percent decrease from the year before. The amount of illegally logged timber seized by the agency fell by nearly 64 percent from 2018 to 2019.

These trends, combined with a drier than normal rainy season, make some commentators fear that the deforestation and burning of 2019 which led to a global outcry and the belated deployment of the Brazilian army, could be surpassed during the dry season of 2020. 

There also remains the possibility of increased COVID-19 infections in the region, with indigenous people experiencing heightened exposure as more loggers enter the forest during the dry season between August and October. The creation of huge volumes of ash and smoke will also exacerbate the symptoms of respiratory disease.

Signal spotted by: Anonymous


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