It is not often that news of a decrease in deforestation is reported, especially when it comes to the Amazon rainforest, which is known for its rampant deforestation and destruction. However, satellite data collected by Brazil’s government space research agency, Inpe, has revealed a promising start for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration.
According to the data, 167 square km (64 square miles) of the Amazon rainforest were cleared in January, a 61% drop from the same period in 2022, which was the worst January in the eight-year series. This decrease in deforestation is also below the historical average of 196 square km for the month since 2016, although it must be noted that January data can be affected by heavy cloud cover over the rainforest early in the year.
The decrease in deforestation can be attributed to the anti-logging raids launched by Brazilian environmental agents in mid-January, under the direction of President Lula. The raids were a response to Lula’s pledge to put an end to the increasing destruction of the Amazon under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
While this decrease in deforestation is a positive sign, it is too early to determine if it is the start of a trend reversal, according to Daniel Silva, a conservation specialist from WWF-Brasil. Part of the decrease may be due to the heavier cloud cover in the region during January, and it may take several months or even years to determine if the decrease is sustained.
The news of the decrease in deforestation of the Amazon rainforest comes as the United States is reportedly considering its first contribution to a multilateral fund aimed at fighting Amazon deforestation. This announcement could be made during President Biden’s meeting with President Lula at the White House.
Despite this positive start, environmental agency Ibama warns that it may take years for Lula to deliver on his conservation targets after funding and staffing were cut at key agencies during Bolsonaro’s presidency. Additionally, the Brazilian government is currently battling wildcat mining on Yanomami land, the largest indigenous reservation in the Amazon, which has caused a humanitarian crisis due to illegal gold mining.