Flyovers register dramatic images of the Amazon and belie Bolsonaro’s speech at the UN
he expedition took place between September 14 and 17, in the municipalities of Porto Velho (Rondônia state) and Lábrea (southern Amazonas state).
Despite President Bolsonaro’s speech at the 76th UN General Assembly, the Amazon rainforest remains shrouded in smoke and torn by criminal and unchecked devastation. This scenario was confirmed by the flyovers carried out last week by the Amazon in Flames Alliance, promoted by such organizations as Amazon Watch, Greenpeace Brazil and the Brazilian Climate Observatory. The expedition took place between September 14 and 17, in the municipalities of Porto Velho (Rondônia state) and Lábrea (southern Amazonas state).
“While Bolsonaro was en route to New York, we flew over the Amazon to record the reality of the destruction of the largest tropical rainforest in the world: illegal deforestation and burning. The images don’t lie, but the same cannot be said of the President’s speech at the UN,” remarks Stela Herschmann, climate policy specialist at the Climate Observatory.
The first images by the project released today show large areas deforested in July and already consumed by fire — polygons ranging from 1,550 to 2,450 hectares, or the equivalent to 2,012 to 3,181 soccer fields — among the five largest deforestation areas in the state of Amazonas. The following were also detected: scars from mining activities within protected areas, illegal landing strips, large plots of land being prepared for planting, and cattle grazing alongside recent fires.
More images available here. They can be used freely, provided due credit is given to: Victor Moriyama/Amazon in Flames (photos) and Fernanda Ligabue (videos).
Under the Bolsonaro administration, Amazonas surpassed Rondônia as the third state with the worst level of deforestation, according to the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research – INPE’s Prodes system. According to data from the Programa Queimadas – INPE, from January to mid-September, 2021, there were around 12,000 heat spots in Amazonas state. In August alone, 8,588 spots were registered in the state, surpassing the record for the same month in 2020, which, in turn, had surpassed that of 2019. Labrea is the most critical area in the country, with 2,959 heat spots in 2021. Porto Velho is the second municipality in number of fires, with 2,700 heat spots — the Brazilian capital where the Amazon rainforest is burned the most.
“What we saw from above was the forest covered in smoke and torn by criminal and unchecked devastation on the ground,” says Romulo Batista, spokesperson for the Greenpeace Brazil Amazon Campaign. Batista has lived and worked in the region for the past 15 years. “Setting fire to the forest is part of the deforestation cycle, which includes the initial removal of the most valuable trees, a financial benefit for those who invest in land grabbing — this land, in general, ends up being transformed into pastures. And it is a crime, as set forth in the Executive Order No. 10,735, of June 28, 2021, which bans the use of fire in agricultural and forestry activities in Brazil.” It is worth noting that on the same date, the federal government authorized, for the third time, the use of military troops to combat environmental crimes with a focus on illegal deforestation, a strategy that has already proven ineffective in the past.
Strategic and coordinated intelligence actions to punish these criminals are increasingly necessary and critical. “Enforcement agencies such as IBAMA need to recover their capacity to act, with the freedom and support they had before, when Brazil was a world reference in the fight against deforestation. Losing the southern Amazon, considered the heart of the Amazon, could bring us even closer to the forest’s tipping point. This is a time to act against the crimes, and not to cover them up,” says Ana Paula Vargas, Amazon Watch Brazil Program director.
About Amazon in Flames Alliance: a partnership between Amazon Watch, Greenpeace Brazil and the Brazilian Climate Observatory that carries out flightovers to monitor and disseminate information on forest areas that have been deforested and/or threatened by deforestation, fire and mining.
Camila Rossi – Amazon Watch: [email protected]; + 55 11 98152-8476
Solange A. Barreira – Climate Observatory: [email protected]; + 55 11 98108-7272
Karen Mota – Greenpeace Brasil: [email protected] ; +55 11 97252-6867