Deforestation of land occupied by Brazil's isolated tribes doubled in 2019: report

FILE PHOTO: Indigenous people in Brazil, who are considered uncontacted by anthropologists, react to a plane flying over their community in the Amazon basin near the Xinane river in Brazil's Acre State, Brazil, March 25, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Deforestation of lands occupied by isolated indigenous tribes in the Brazilian Amazon more than doubled between July 2019 and July 2018 to the highest rate in more than a decade, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

About 21,000 hectares of land were cleared, a jump of 113% from the preceding year, Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental said, using government data compiled from satellite imagery to calculate the figure.

Isolated tribes live without contact with the rest of the world and the Brazilian government has had a policy since 1980 of not forcing contact upon such tribes.

The report’s findings mark the highest rate of deforestation on these lands since 2008, the earliest that the data has been broken down for such territories that have historically been protected from the worst of deforestation.

“The picture for Brazil’s isolated indigenous tribes is devastating,” the report said.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized the no-contact policy of the government and repeatedly threatened to reverse course on it, saying it prevents the exploitation of natural resources on these reserves.

Physical attacks on indigenous populations, blamed on wildcat miners and illegal loggers, have risen under Bolsonaro, who took office on Jan. 1, 2019.

“When we look at the past 12 years, deforestation in indigenous lands really picked up starting in 2017,” the report said. “Deforestation in indigenous lands in the Amazon has already consumed one million hectares (2471053.81 acres),” it said, referring to an area about the size of Lebanon.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Bernadette Baum