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deforestation is skyrocketing

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“We continue to see an increase in an already alarming figure”warns the head of science and protection of the territories of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Brazil, Mariana Napolitano Ferreira, interviewed by The cross. With more than 1,000 km² deforested, deforestation in the Amazon broke a new record last month. And the expert has no illusions about the period to come: “The month of April is decisive because we are moving from the rainy season to the dry season, during which deforestation is particularly high. » For Mariana Napolitano Ferreira, it is a certainty: the numbers will continue to increase dramatically.

A carbon-emitting rainforest

The Amazon Basin accounts for more than half of the remaining rainforest area on the planet, or approximately 7.2 million square kilometers of jungle. “For a long time, the Amazon was a carbon sink, which it absorbed”, explains the head of WWF in Brazil. But in recent years, the flow has reversed: the forest now releases more carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbs, according to a study published by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE) in 2021.

→ REREAD. In Brazil, deforestation in the Amazon is intensifying

The main reason for this inversion, which has a massive impact on global warming, is deforestation. “Some set fire to the forest to develop agriculture and industry, mainly for livestock, soybean production and for gold mining”, alert Mariana Napolitano Ferreira. The fires reinforce the vicious cycle that leads to hotter dry seasons in the Amazon and a lack of rain on the coast. “We are close to a tipping point, a point of no return”adds the activist.

An aggravated vicious circle driven by power

In power since January 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro has displayed a clearly anti-environmental position. A study published recently by the collective of NGOs and universities MapBiomas showed that since he took office, government environmental protection agencies had seized only 2.17% of deforestation alerts reported via Deter system. “However, deforestation increases in an election year”worries the WWF, a few months before the presidential election next fall.

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Ferreira ensures that the candidates turn a blind eye to these practices to attract the good graces of certain voters. “It’s not just deforestation but the occupation of public land, gold panning. It is not only the climate that is directly affected, but also biodiversity, and the living space of indigenous peoples”underlines Mariana Napolitano Ferreira.

Indigenous peoples directly threatened

“Along with other natives, women, warriors, daughters, sons, fathers and mothers, I fight to protect what is most sacred to us: Mother Earth”, says Vandria Borari. Originally from the Borari Alter do Chão territory (in the Baixo-Tapajós region of the Amazon), she comes from a land abused by gold diggers and soybean producers since the 1960s.

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→ REREAD. Brazil: thousands of indigenous people demonstrate against Jair Bolsonaro’s policy

Vandria Borari figures the increase in deforestation in her region at 54% for the month of April alone, a record for fifteen years. “Most of our territory is destroyed by illegal mining and the construction of ports on the banks of the Tapajós to evacuate soybean production. » Beyond the forest, there are also sacred areas, where his ancestors rest, which go up in smoke. “We want our territories to be protected and our rivers to be clean. » The Tapajós River has also been massively polluted by illegal mining residues, primarily mercury. “Many people have very high levels of mercury in their bodies”notes this activist.

In the eyes of Vandria Borari, President Bolsonaro bears direct responsibility for this state of affairs. She places all her hopes in the victory of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the October presidential election: “Under Lula, we indigenous peoples were protected, as was the forest. »

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