New satellite images reveal that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased sixfold in the past year. The Brazil National Institute for Space Research announced that 230 square miles of rainforest were destroyed in March and April 2011. This figure is six times higher than during the same two month span in 2010.
The largest rise in deforestation took place in the state of Mato Grosso, which alone produces more than a quarter of Brazil’s soybean harvest. The country is currently the largest producer of soy in the world.
In response to the distressing report, Brazil's Environment Minister announced Wednesday that the government has set up a crisis center to combat deforestation, reports BBC News. "Our objective is to reduce deforestation by July," said Izabella Teixeira at a news conference.
This, however, is by no means a unanimous conviction.
The news comes at a time when Brazil’s Congress is debating a bill that would significantly lift restrictions on deforestation. Current regulations mandate that 80% of land in the Amazon remain untouched. An increasingly popular and powerful group known as the “ruralists” is pushing for reform that would increase the amount of land farmers could destroy for agricultural profit.
France 24 reports that, out of Brazil’s 5.3 million square kilometers of jungle and forests, only 1.7 million are under state protection. The rest are at the whims of private hands.
The new report is a wake-up call not only to Brazil but to the rest of the world. Just last December, a government report stated that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate within the past 22 years.
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