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Amazon Rainforest Deforestation: The Story so far

 

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation: Relevance

  • GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation: Context

  • Recently, Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research has released a report where it stated that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest was at its worst in 15 years.

 

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation : Key points

  • According to the report, Amazon—the world’s largest rainforest—had lost more than 5,000 square miles of tree cover, comparable to about the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, from August 2020 to July 2021.
  • Satellite data also indicated that deforestation increased by about 22% from the previous year.
  • It was also the first time on record that the country has reported a fourth consecutive year of rising deforestation rates.
  • Notably, since Mr. Bolsonaro became president in 2019, the country has lost a forest area bigger than Belgium.

 

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COP 26: Brazil’s commitment

  • At the recently concluded COP 26 in Glasgow, Brazil joined over 100 countries in a promise to end deforestation, to reverse its reputation as an environmental offender.
  • Under the plan, Brazil committed to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 15 percent by next year.
  • Brazil has pledged this month to end illegal deforestation in eight years.
    • Though ambitious, it is not impossible because earlier too, Brazil has reduced deforestation by 80% from 2004 and 2012.

 

Amazon rainforest significance

  • The Amazon rainforest is 10 million years old.
  • Amazon is home to 390 billion trees, and the vast river basin reigns over South America and is an unrivalled nest of biodiversity.
  • The flora and fauna are so diverse that biologists find a new species every other day.

 

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Amazon rainforest deforestation causes

  • Five decades ago, Brazil incentivized millions of its people to colonize the Amazon.
    • In 1964, Brazil’s military dictatorship took power and decreed that “empty” jungle was a security risk.
    • The Government created the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) to conquer the forest and make it an agricultural stronghold.
    • In the early 1970s, the government ran television ads for a new mecca of cheap land—and freedom.
  • Brazil’s present President, Jair Bolsonaro is blamed for the following reasons:
    • He backed the colonists’ approach with respect to Amazon
    • He sacked key environmental officials and slashed enforcement.
  • The message of the President was that the Amazon is open for business.
  • As a result of this, since his inauguration in January, the rate of deforestation has soared by as much as 92%.

 

Amazon rainforest deforestation effects

  • Scientists warn that decades of human activity and a changing climate has brought the jungle near a “tipping point.”
  • Experts also warn that the water cycle will soon become irreversibly broken, locking in a trend of declining rainfall and longer dry seasons that began decades ago.
  • At least half of the shrinking forest will give way to savanna.
  • With as much as 17% of the forest lost already, scientists believe that the tipping point will be reached at 20% to 25% of deforestation even if climate change is tamed.
  • If global temperatures rise by 4°C, much of the central, eastern and southern Amazon will certainly become barren scrubland.
  • If things continue as they are now, the Amazon might not exist at all within a few generations, with dire consequences for all life on earth.
  • If the Amazon is destroyed, it will be impossible to control global warming.

 

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