The figure for the first months of 2023

Brazil. Deforestation of the Amazon decreases by 40 percent

First positive data for Lula. Good sign but isolated and partial for lack of data, warn experts and environmentalists. And in the tropical savannah of the Cerrado the destruction continues


Official data, albeit preliminary, from INPE, the national space research agency, revealed that in April 328.71 square kilometers were deforested in the Brazilian Amazon, below the monthly historical average of 455.75 square kilometers. A decrease of 68 percent compared to the same month last year.

This is the first positive data on this front for President Lula who focused a lot in last year's election campaign on stopping deforestation after the Bolsonaro years that ended in December with a peak of 150 percent that saw, in just one month, more than double the trees eliminated compared to December 2022.

A trend of increasing deforestation that had continued in the first months of Lula's presidency and that the April figure interrupts, leading, overall, the deforestation of the first months of 2023 to fall by 40.4% with 1,173 square kilometers. We therefore return to the levels of 2021 and 2020, respectively 1,153.27 and 1,204.15 square kilometers.

But experts and environmentalists warn that it is still too early to say whether this is the beginning of a downtrend.

Romulo Batista, spokesman for Greenpeace Brazil, told Reuters: "Deforestation is a complex problem, it is very difficult for a single factor to be responsible for both the increase we saw in February and March and the decrease we saw in April. April brings with it a peculiarity that INPE (Brazilian Institute of Space Investigation) has included on its page: it has not been able to measure all the data relating to the coverage of 2022".

Lula said it was urgent for Brazil to show that its government not only talks about protecting the environment, but that it intends to meet its commitment to end deforestation by 2030.

Earlier this month, he reiterated his commitment after securing an £80 million (about €92 million) contribution from Britain to the Amazon Fund, an initiative aimed at combating deforestation also supported by Norway, Germany and the United States.

And there are other data that invite caution. The first is that the annual peak of deforestation is expected between July and September.

"We welcomed the April data as a positive sign, but unfortunately we cannot yet declare a downward trend in deforestation in the Amazon. The numbers are very high and the dry season, conducive to deforestation, has not yet begun," says Mariana Napolitano, WWF Brazil conservation manager.

The second is the situation in the Cerrado, the second largest biome in Brazil. Between January and April 2023, deforestation in the Cerrado was the highest in five years, reaching 2,133 square kilometers. The number is 14.5% higher than that recorded in the same period last year (1,886 square kilometers).

For WWF-Brazil, the tropical savannah that spans 11 states in eastern Brazil is in grave danger. About 80% of reports of deforestation occurred in areas of the so-called "Matopiba", the main frontier of agricultural expansion in the country.

These numbers are part of a context of continuous and growing destruction that has been going on for a long time. This devastation has already consumed half of the biome, which is under great pressure from agricultural activities," said Edegar de Oliveira, WWF-Brazil's director of ecosystem conservation and restoration.