Soy field south of Santarem and along the road BR163.
Cutting through the Brazilian Amazon from north to south over a vast distance of 1700 km is a federal highway called the BR 163. For the past 20 years the highway has been one of the major drivers of deforestation in the region.
Just months after celebrating the lowest historic deforestation rate in the Amazon, the Brazilian government released new figures this week that it may be losing progress.
The new Amazon deforestation figures estimate that 654 square miles of forest, an area larger than the size of London, was destroyed over a six month period between August 2012 to February 2013. This represents an increase in deforestation of 26.82%, compared with the same period the year before.
The state of Maranho saw the biggest increase (121%), followed by Tocantins (110%). Nonetheless, Mato Grosso continued to lead the list of with 283 square miles of forest lost.
Sadly, this comes as no surprise to my Greenpeace colleagues in Brazil who have witnessed a drastic reduction in government protection for the Amazon. Over the past two years, the Brazilian government has adopted the agribusiness lobbys agenda by weakening the Brazilian forest code and limiting the authority of IBAMA, the Brazilian federal environmental enforcement authority. This backsliding also impedes the success of zero deforestation commitments made by the Brazilian soy sector and the major Brazilian meatpackers. Consumers have spoken out many times that they dont want to buy products linked to Amazon destruction and it may be harder to offer such assurances when deforestation has begun to increase once again in Brazil.
Brazilian civil society groups, including Greenpeace Brazil have responded to the Brazilian Governments rollbacks of forest protection by mobilizing 1.4 million Brazilian voters to call upon their congress to pass a zero deforestation law. Such a law could restore much needed protection to the Amazon.