Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon hits October record ahead of govt change

An aerial view shows a deforested plot of the Amazon rainforest in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil July 8, 2022. REUTERS/Bruno Kell/File Photo

SAO PAULO, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest reached a record for October, data showed on Friday, with land-clearing in the region speeding up as the country undergoes a transition to a more conservation-friendly government.

Preliminary government satellite data collected by space research agency Inpe showed that 903.86 square kilometers (348.98 square miles) were cleared in the region last month, the highest for the period since tracking began in 2015 and up 3.1% year-on-year.

From January to October, 9,494 square kilometers were cleared, equal to an area more than 12 times the size of New York City and also a record for the period, exceeding the previous high set in 2019 by 12.7%.

Incoming leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has promised to curb deforestation in the Amazon by bolstering law enforcement.

He will take over on Jan. 1 from far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who rolled back environmental protections during his time in office.

Annual statistics released last year showed deforestation had already surged to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.

His office and the Environment Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mariana Napolitano, WWF-Brasil's science manager, said she already expected deforestation to spike during the transition period, highlighting how fire alerts have rocketed since the election was declared in Lula's favour on Oct. 30.

"Those who profit from illegality noticed there is still an opportunity window opened but it's about to close. Those figures are really scary," she said.

Fire alerts in the first ten days of November have nearly matched those reported in all of that month in 2021, Inpe data showed. The burning season in the Amazon, when rains subside, usually occurs between August and September.

Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; editing by John Stonestreet

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