Amazon deforestation much worse than announced by Government

Press release - 2 December, 2004
Greenpeace today claimed that Amazon deforestation levels for the period August 2003-August 2004 are much higher than the indicative figures released by the Brazilian Government and may be a new record. According to the Government, deforestation for that period was between 2,310,000 and 2,440,000 hectares.

However the figures are from a system designed to detect and alert the Government to deforestation currently occurring and not designed to give actual accumulated data. (1) The system cannot estimate the total deforestation according to INPE (the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research). The numbers were released during a meeting held by the Government to assess the National Plan to fight deforestation.

"The annual deforestation may be much larger than the Government is prepared to admit. These are very alarming figures, but they still don't reflect how dire the situation is," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Co-ordinator. "The intense activity in the forest in the second half of 2004 will add dramatically to the deforestation figures, as this is the peak of the burning season. The Government's plan to combat deforestation, announced in March this year, has up to now failed to stop these activities."

Last year (August 2002-03) the deforestation was 2,375,000 hectares, which is the second largest rate in Brazilian history.

"Rumours circulating in the Brazilian media last week suggested up to 3,000,000 hectares were lost this during the August 03-04 period (an area the same size as Belgium). If true, this will be the largest deforestation rate of all time," said Adario.

For example, Greenpeace analysis of satellite images and fieldwork shows deforestation in the Middle Land (2) in 2004 increased by 35% compared with 2003, reaching 70,000 hectares. The forest lost in the Middle Land in the last 3 years (176,000 ha) is greater than the total accumulated until 2001.

"The Middle Land was identified as a priority area for the Deforestation Plan, yet deforestation is occurring faster than ever. Every year we are losing more tropical forest and all the biodiversity that it houses. Plans are not going to save forests, only actions can. The Lula government have the plans, now they need to implement them on the ground," said Adario.

VVPR info: Pictures and footage available on request

Notes: (1) The system is based on satellite images detecting 25 hectares or more, therefore doesn't measure small-scale deforestation. The previous system was able to identify deforestation in areas of 6.4ha and bigger.(2) Middle Land is situated between the Xingu and Tapajós rivers in the state of Pára and is one of the largest relatively undisturbed areas of rainforest in the Eastern Amazon