Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest hit a record in the first seven months of the year, according to preliminary government data on Friday, just before the traditional peak of the annual burning season.
Government satellite data shows that between January and July 5,474 square kilometers were cleared in the region, 7.3% more than in the same period last year, equivalent to an area seven times larger than that of the city of New York. This is the highest deforestation for the period in a data series dating back to 2015.
In July alone, deforestation amounted to 1,487 square kilometers, roughly in line with the same month in 2021.
Environmentalists and experts blame President Jair Bolsonaro for rolling back nL4N2Z240R environmental protections, opening space for loggers and ranchers to illegally clear more of the Amazon.
“The numbers are shocking, but not surprising,” said Marcio Astrini, head of local environmental group Observatorio del Clima, adding that “out of control” deforestation in the Amazon was a consequence of government policies that reduce protection.
Bolsonaro’s office forwarded a request for comment to the Environment Ministry, which did not immediately respond to the query.
The latest figures are released as Brazil approaches the worst of the annual burning season in the Amazon, the season when ranchers and farmers typically set fire to deforested areas early in the year.
Data from the national space research agency INPE shows that fires in the region tend to increase in August and September.
In July, INPE fire alerts increased by 8% compared to the previous year, to a total of 5,373, although they remain below the average of 6,213.
Last month, Brazil’s environmental authority granted a first permit allowing a major highway to be paved in the center of the jungle, in a move that threatens to increase deforestation.