Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is at an all-time high in February, with preliminary official data showing that it is increasing despite President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s pledge to stop illegal logging.
The rise in deforestation levels has posed significant challenges to the new government as it aims to stop the destruction. Experts and environmental officials have warned that it could take years to significantly reduce deforestation levels after years of surging deforestation under the previous government’s tenure. Illegal deforesters are still exploiting the absence of enforcement and control in the region, with the potential to ramp up deforestation.
Conservation policies are yet to show significant results in stopping deforestation
Lula’s conservation policies are yet to show significant results, and aggressive conservation policies are being put to the test as the deforestation levels increase.
According to Inpe data, 322 square km (124 square miles) were cleared in the region last month, an increase of 62% from February 2022, and it is above the average of 166 square km for the period. This increase in deforestation is the highest since Inpe’s data series began in 2015.
Ibama gives its best to stop environmental criminals
The government is currently battling deforestation in the Amazon, and the environmental enforcement agency Ibama has set out to combat illegal deforestation. However, the agency has suffered dwindling funding and staff under former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Only two of the 12 agents on the Uruara assignment had any prior knowledge of field operations. They had to travel by truck over 200 kilometers (125 miles) of difficult dirt roads in order to visit five deforested sites in 12 hours because their helicopters were out of commission for maintenance.
On the sites, it always seemed the loggers had left before Ibama arrived, probably after being informed by lookouts near the road.
It may take years to significantly reduce Amazon rainforest deforestation
It may take years to show major progress as understaffed agencies face a bureaucratic battle to hire staff and a violent one against criminals emboldened by the previous administration. Time is needed to show a significant reduction in deforestation levels as the agencies battle deforestation.
The world may not see significant progress in the fight to defend the Amazon until 2024 at the earliest, according to interviews with nine current and former government officials. Up to that point, rapidly disappearing trees would continue to produce significant volumes of carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change. Data from the government shows that in 2022, 54% faster than the year before Bolsonaro took office, the rainforest was being removed at a rate of approximately three football fields every minute.
Illegal loggers are better equipped than Ibama
Ibama is Brazil’s most powerful weapon against deforestation in the short run, slapping fines on offenders, banning farming in deforested areas, and destroying expensive equipment used in illegal logging. Its staffing and resources expanded in Lula’s 2003-2010 presidency when he managed to reduce Amazon deforestation by 72%.
However, its numbers have dwindled dramatically since then, and the government will open a call for new Ibama hires by early April. But it is likely to then take ten months before new agents are in the field due to rules about public-sector hiring and training for such dangerous missions.
Reducing deforestation indicators will take a certain amount of time, according to the incoming Ibama chief. The number of agents that can be hired this year is uncertain, and the process will be gradual. It is important to reduce deforestation levels and put an end to illegal logging, but the lack of resources and staff has made it difficult for the government to fight deforestation. The government needs to invest more in the environment and encourage sustainable development to protect the Amazon rainforest.