By Richard Mann, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Environment Minister Ricardo Salles plans to hire a private company to better monitor the Amazon. However, a report in the newspaper “Folha de São Paulo” disclosed that current monitoring by public bodies is not being fully carried out.
Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil sped up in May to the fastest rate in a decade, according to data from an early-warning satellite system, as experts pointed to activity by illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under President Bolsonaro.
The Monday, June 3rd, edition of the newspaper, however, showed that in the first five months of Bolsonaro’s administration, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) recorded the lowest number of fines for deforestation in the Amazon in the past four years.
Environment Minister Ricardo Salles blames the current monitoring of the National Space Research Institute (INPE) for its ineffectiveness in fighting deforestation and intends to replace it with a private company, according to the newspaper. The minister plans to hire the São Paulo geoprocessing company Santiago and Cintra, reported the paper.
Initially, the ministry released a note saying that INPE would not be replaced in the satellite monitoring of deforestation. Later, the minister explained that he intends to sign a specific contract for real-time imaging with higher resolution and detail than the system in place. According to the minister, it would complement surveillance work.
He further said that the company has not yet been defined. It will depend on competitive bidding – the contract is worth R$7 (US1.8) million.
According to the same report, IBAMA has been reducing the number of fines. From the beginning of 2019 until May 15th, INPE has sent 3,860 deforestation alerts to environmental enforcement agencies. IBAMA’s inspection, however, issued a mere 850 fines.
In the first months of Bolsonaro’s administration, the ratio stood at 4.5 alerts for fines. Between 2016 and 2018, this average ranged from 1.1 to 3.4 alerts/fines in the same period.
Data from the Climate Observatory show that IBAMA’s inspection operations in the country from January to April fell 58 percent, as compared to 2018. There were 86 operations in 2018 and 36 in 2019.
The minister noted that the government faces a shortage of funds and personnel for monitoring and that there is no relaxation of the policy to control illegal deforestation.
Environmentalist Carlos Rittl says that systems used today, such as the INPE, are very effective in detecting deforestation and that the problem is the shortage of investment in the inspection.
“These monitoring systems, even with high resolution, will not lead to a reduction in deforestation. Teams need to be sent to the field, based on alerts raised by monitoring systems, so that crimes can be addressed and those responsible punished for illegal deforestation,” he explains.