The official rate of deforestation for the Amazon Region between August of 2004 and July of 2005 was 18.900 square kilometers, a 31 percent reduction compared to the same period between 2003 and 2005 (with a 5 percent margin of error for more or less). The figure was released yesterday, December 5, in Brasília, by the ministers of the Environment, Marina Silva, and Science and Technology, Sérgio Rezende, and uses as reference 77 satellite images that encompass about 87 percent of the total area that has been deforested in the region. The consolidated figure may be released before the end of the year.
This is the first time that the government announces the figures in the same year of the analyzed period. In general, the information was made public the following year, which made useless the inspection operations by the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis – Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources – (Ibama), since the damages had taken place months before the arrival of the organ’s technicians in the areas that had been illegally deforested. This has been made possible also because, for the first time as well, the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais – National Institute of Space Research – (Inpe), in charge of the federal government’s official deforestation figures, compared the images of two different satellites – CBERS and Landsat – in order to correct the distortions caused by clouds in the analysis of deforested areas. In August, the government had already released estimates of a significant reduction in deforestation produced by the Sistema de Detecção em Tempo Real – System of Detection in Real Time – (Deter), which is not capable of calculating rates in deforested areas with precision (check it out).
The 31 percent reduction was distributed unevenly among the various localities Inpe analyzed, which correspond to “scenes” mapped by the satellites it uses. The Ministry of the Environment (MMA) did not release the average rates by State, but informed that there has been a reduction in all States in the Amazon Region, including Mato Grosso, which holds the title of “deforestation champion” and was responsible for 48 percent of the 27,200 square kilometers that were deforested between 2003 and 2004 in Amazonia. This last figure, now consolidated, was released yesterday as well, and corresponds to the second highest rate in History. In May, the government had announced an estimate of 26,100 square kilometers. The information was published in important foreign media vehicles at the time and caused considerable damage on the image of the Lula administration.
The figure now released was celebrated by the administration as a direct result of the actions of environmental monitoring, control and property regularization included in the Plano de Ação para Prevenção e Controle do Desmatamento na Amazônia – Action Plan for Deforestation Prevention and Control in the Amazon Region –, launched by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in March of 2004. The six large police operations against deforestation carried out since 2003 – among them Operation Curupira and Operation Ouro Verde – were mentioned as examples of the larger presence of the State in the Amazon Region during a press conference at the Planalto Palace. Government representatives reminded that, since then, 241 people have been arrested and that the Ibama has issued R$ 1.8 billion in fines in the region.
Among the 15 “scenes” in which deforestation has increased, the MMA’s Secretary of Biodiversity and Forests, João Paulo Capobianco, highlighted southeastern Pará, near the Tocantins state line, where a 103 percent increase was registered, and the south of the State of Amazonas, particularly in the Apuí region, one of the places that showed an increase between 50 percent and 90 percent. On the other hand, Capobianco remarked that there had been an expressive reduction in deforestation, between 50 percent and 100 percent, in critical areas such as the Xingu River basin, in northern Mato Grosso, the area known as Terra do Meio, and the area of influence of the BR-163 Highway (Cuiabá-Santarém), both in the State of Pará. In the latter, according to Capobiaco, the reduction in the deforestation rates was the result of the interdiction, in February, of more than 8.2 million hectares along the highway for surveys towards the creation of Conservation Units (UCs).
The Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, once again said that in 2004 there was not enough time for the measures proposed in the plan for deforestation combat to take effect, and that it now is mature to be assessed by society. Silva repeated that the results obtained now are a consequence of the fact that the federal government has adopted environmental criteria in the policies of all its sectors. "This is the first time that deforestation diminishes in nine years. We started out with an increase in the rates, in 2002, of 27 percent, and moved on to a reduction that exceeds 30 percent. Our challenge now is to obtain constant reductions in the next years", she said.
The government mentioned initiatives that have already been announced as examples of “structuring actions” it plans to adopt before the end of 2006 in order to maintain the reduction in the deforestation rates, among them the protection of more than 15.5 million hectares of forest through the creation of federal Conservancy Units and the implementation of the so-called Distritos Florestais Sustentáveis – Sustainable Forest Districts. The MMA is also considering sending to the National Congress a bill that will require that private banks take into consideration environmental criteria for the concession of credit for rural technical assistance, as well as a Medida Provisória – Temporary Measure – (MP) with incentives for the financing of sustainable productive activities.
"Indeed, we must recognize that even with all the limitations pointed out by the Grupo de Trabalho de Florestas of the Fórum Brasileiro de Ongs e Movimentos Sociais – Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movement’s Forest Work Group –, the administration has increased its efforts in the combat of deforestation vis a vis the former administration, and the rate reduction from the 2003/2004 period is an indication of that. However, it is extremely worrisome that, despite the efforts, we are celebrating a level of deforestation that is much higher that the 1990s average of 17,000 square kilometers ", says ISA’s lawyer ISA André Lima. "Analyzing the data in a historical perspective, if the Lula administration does not want to set a record in deforestation, it will have to reduce the rate next year to less than 8,000 square kilometers. Otherwise, in spite of the Deforestation Combat Plan instituted in 2004, it will surpass the highest deforestation rate registered in the civilian administrations – the rate of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s first term (1994-1998), of 77,800 square kilometers."
Deforestation in the Amazon Region according to Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe)
From 1977 to 1988 – 21,000 sq. km
From 1988 to 1990 – 31,500 sq. km
From 1990 to 1994 – 39,700 sq. km
From 1994 to 1998 – 77,800 sq. km (first FHC administration)
From 1998 to 2002 – 76,900 sq. km
From 2002 to 2005 – 69,800 sq. km
(Obs: figures refer always to the period of August of a given year to July of the following year)