Last week, as some of us were heading off for the long holiday weekend (Easter is a holiday here in Brazil), the Brazilian government was quietly releasing deforestation trends showing an increase in deforestation for the first time in five years.

These numbers use the DETER rapid response satellite system, a system that provides estimates of deforestation rates every month. Over the time period documented, August 2012 to February 2013, the rates increased an estimated 26.82% and an area of the Amazon larger than the size of the city of London disappeared.

In absolute numbers, that means 1,695 square kilometers (654 square miles) of forest have disappeared. That equals an area the size of 237,000 soccer fields.

The state of Maranhão saw the biggest increase (121%), followed by Tocantins (110%). However, Mato Grosso state continued to top the list of forest destruction with 734 square kilometers of forest lost.

Deforested Area in the Amazon

The increase in deforestation rates can be directly attributed to the Brazilian government’s systematic dismantling of the laws and agencies that protect the Amazon. These changes opened up the Amazon for destruction, making the current citizen’s initiative for Zero Deforestation Law in Brazil even more necessary.

President Dilma Rousseff’s approval of a new Forest Code, a law that provides amnesty for crimes committed after 2008 in the Amazon and reduces large areas of protected land, paved the way for the increase in deforestation. The president also structurally weakened government agencies like IBAMA, the federal environmental enforcement agency, so unfortunately it won’t be a surprise if deforestation continues to rise in the Amazon.

More than 800,000 Brazilians have already signed onto a citizen’s initiative calling for a Zero Deforestation law that would offer full protection for the Amazon. With the president’s support this could become law. Greenpeace is calling on Rousseff to support a law for Zero Deforestation in Brazil.

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