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Amazon deforestation breaks September record

An aerial view of a deforested and burnt area on the edge of the BR-230 (Transamazonica) highway in Manicoré, Amazonas state, Brazil. -- AFP
An aerial view of a deforested and burnt area on the edge of the BR-230 (Transamazonica) highway in Manicoré, Amazonas state, Brazil. -- AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon broke the monthly record for September, according to official figures released on Friday, triggering calls from environmentalists to vote far-right President Jair Bolsonaro out of office later this month.

In the latest worrying news on the rainforest, satellite monitoring showed 1,455 square kilometres (562 square miles) of forest cover was destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon last month, according to national space agency INPE's real-time surveillance program, DETER.

The area is equivalent to 25 times the size of Manhattan, and the worst for September since the programme was launched in 2015.

The previous record for September was also under Bolsonaro: 1,454 square kilometres in 2019.

The figures came as Bolsonaro battles to win re-election in an October 30 run-off against leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), who has vowed to work to achieve net-zero deforestation.

Lula -- who also faced criticism at times for his environmental record as president -- won Sunday's first-round election with 48 per cent of the vote, to 43 per cent for Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro, an ally of the powerful agribusiness sector, has faced international criticism for presiding over a surge of destruction in Brazil's 60-per cent share of the world's biggest rainforest, a key buffer against global warming.

Since he took office in January 2019, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 per cent from the previous decade.

Experts say the agribusiness industry is driving the destruction by clear-cutting and burning forest to turn it to farmland and pasture.

With three months to go, 2022 is already the second-worst year on record for deforestation, at 8,590 square kilometres, according to DETER.

That is second only to 2019, Bolsonaro's first year in office, when 9,178 square kilometres were destroyed. The second- and third-worst years were also under Bolsonaro -- 2020 and 2021, respectively.

"Anyone who cares about the future of the rainforest, the lives of indigenous peoples and the possibility of having a livable planet should vote to remove Bolsonaro," Marcio Astrini, the executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental groups, said in a statement.

Bolsonaro's campaign defends his record as "balancing environmental protection with fair and sustainable economic growth." -- AFP

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