Brazil’s Amazon: Surge in deforestation as military prepares to deploy

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Reuters

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Much of the illegal logging takes place on indigenous tribes' lands

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest increased sharply in the past month, as the country was preparing to send troops to try to curb illegal logging and mining.

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Brazil's space research agency said the area destroyed in April was 64% larger than in the same period last year.

In the first four months of 2020, forest destruction by illegal loggers and farmers increased by 55%, the report said.

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Environmentalists say President Jair Bolsonaro's policies and rhetoric encourage illegal activities.

Bolsonaro denies this. Earlier this week, he authorized the deployment of armed forces to the region.

The Amazon rainforest is a vital carbon reserve that slows the pace of global warming.

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) said that more than 405 square kilometers of the Amazon were deforested last month, compared to 248 square kilometers in April last year.

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Between January and April, a total of 1,202 km2 was destroyed, the newspaper reported.

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Conservation groups said that, since the coronavirus outbreak began, fewer government agents have been deployed.

Brazil has been one of the most affected countries in South America, with 141,000 cases and almost 10,000 deaths.

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Reuters

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Government officials discovered this illegal gold mine in the heart of the rainforest

"The pandemic has not helped because there are apparently fewer agents out there and illegal loggers obviously don't care about the virus in remote areas of the Amazon," said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher at the nonprofit conservation group Imazon.

Ibama's environmental agency said it is reducing field workers in other risk areas, but not in the Amazon.

Deforestation in the region has skyrocketed since President Bolsonaro took office last year.

He argued that more agriculture and mining in protected areas of the forest is the only way to lift the region out of poverty.

Bolsonaro's environmental policies were widely condemned, but he rejected criticism, saying Brazil remains an example of conservation.

He criticized Ibama for what he described as excessive fines. His first year in office saw a sharp drop in financial penalties being imposed for environmental violations. At the same time, the agency remains underfunded and understaffed.

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Media captionHow is the rainforest helping to limit global warming?

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