An area of 247 square kilometers (95 square miles) of Brazilian rainforest was cut down in the months of October and November 2009, which may seem like a lot, but it was a significant drop in Amazon deforestation.
In fact, it was 72.5% less than in October and November 2008. For the minister of Environment, Carlos Minc, the numbers were good news. And they were based on satellite images from the National Space Research Institute’s (Inpe) Real Time Deforestation Detection System (Deter).
The minister added that the satellite imaging had occurred during cloudless periods. “This time nobody can say we did not see the deforestation because of cloud cover,” said Minc.
“These are also the first figures after Operation Green Arch was implemented in the 43 municipalities with the highest rates of deforestation,” explained the minister. And the news was very good. During the first four months of the burning season, August, September, October and November, the reduction in deforestation was around 50% in the area.
The government says the drop in deforestation is due to joint inspection and control by the Environmental Protection Agency (Ibama), the Federal Police, Highway Police and the National Security Force.
Operation Green Arch is part of that effort but it also includes social assistance programs and attempts to provide local inhabitants viable alternative economic activities – that do not require chopping down trees.
Interestingly, the least amount of deforestation in the Amazon region that took place during October and November was in the state of Amazonas (a mere 33 square kilometers). The champion was the state of Pará (108 square km), followed by Mato Grosso (50 square km).
Amazonas is Brazil’s largest state: 1.57 million square kilometers; bigger than France, Spain, Sweden and Greece together, and 2.25 times bigger than Texas.
If it were a country it would be the world’s 18th biggest, coming in slightly larger than Mongolia. The population is 3 million. Pará is the second biggest state at 1.25 million square kilometers with a population of 6 million.
Minc says that at this rate Brazil will achieve its deforestation reduction goal before the year 2020, the year in the government’s proposed National Climate Change Policy paper when the reduction was to be 80%. “We could be down 95% by 2020,” declared Minc.