Deforestation of Amazon rainforest accelerates during pandemic: report

Deforestation of Amazon rainforest accelerates during pandemic: report
© Getty Images

The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency indicates that logging and mining operations have destroyed parts of the rainforest faster than in previous years, NBC News analysis concluded. 

Satellite images from April 25 show visible tree loss near Porto Velho, Brazil, when compared to photos from the end of January. The total loss of land is estimated to equal about 448 football fields.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Brazilian Climate Observatory said this destruction occurred in an area known for illegal deforestation, but NBC News said it could not confirm the deforestation shown in the images was illegal. 

Deforestation has increased by 55 percent in the first four months of this year when compared with the same time period last year, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. In April, deforestation increased by 64 percent from the same month in 2019.

The country is also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and has confirmed 178,214 cases of coronavirus and 12,461 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Environmentalists worry that the expected recession caused by the pandemic will inspire further deforestation. They warn that those conducting deforestation could use the pandemic as a cover, as many government workers remain in quarantine.

Environmentalists have also blamed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for promoting pro-development rhetoric, which they say has incentivized loggers and miners, according to NBC News.

Bolsonaro has made budget cuts and firings to the country's environmental protection agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources. However, he sent armed forces to protect the rainforest last month. 

The Amazon rainforest is also expected to experience a worse fire season than last year, when damaging blazes attracted international attention.