Brazilian Amazon deforestation hits new Jan-Apr high

Coronavirus has Brazil on verge of economic collapse and food shortages, leaders warn

Coronavirus has Brazil on verge of economic collapse and food shortages, leaders warn

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro looks on next to Brazil's Economy Minister Paulo Guedes during a news conference after a meeting with President of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court Dias Toffoli, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Supreme Federal Court in Brasilia, Brazil May 7, 2020.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon soared 85 percent previous year, to 10,123 square kilometers (3,900 square miles), the first time it crossed the 10,000 mark since records began in 2008, according to official data based on satellite images.

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rose sharply last month as the country prepared to send troops to try to curb illegal logging and mining.

"The beginning of the year is not the time where deforestation normally happens, because it's raining, and it's raining a lot", said Erika Berenguer, an ecologist at Oxford and Lancaster Universities.

Last year, Bolsonaro waited until August to send troops into the region, following worldwide outcry over a wave of fires in the rainforest, which traps vast amounts of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Environmentalists have repeatedly said that supporting Brazil's environmental protection agencies would be a more effective plan than sending in military forces. Last month, the government fired the agency's top environmental enforcement officer, after he authorised a raid on illegal miners that was broadcast on television. Felled trees are then left to dry and burn when the season begins, driving the fire problem.

Addressing only the fires "is like me taking paracetamol because I have a toothache: it's going to reduce the pain, but if it's a cavity, it's not going to cure it", she said.

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Brazil, Latin America's biggest economy, is also the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the region.

The Brazilian state of Amazonas has been one the hardest-hit regions of the country by the coronavirus pandemic, with numerous country's resources going to fighting the pandemic which has caused more than 10,000 deaths in the country, and over 140,000 cases.

Deforestation is caused by both wildfires and illegal destructive activities.

The state of Amazonas, largely covered in forest, has been one of the hardest hit.

Mr Bolsonaro said some states had gone too far in their social-distancing measures, and that steps must be taken as soon as possible to bring the economy out of "intensive care".

"There is a web of connected factors (driving deforestation), and in the context of coronavirus, things are even more worrying", Greenpeace Brazil spokeswoman Carolina Marcal told AFP.

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