Note on Brazilian Deforestation Statistics

Note by ECOECO regarding the Brazilian government’s failure to publish data from the DETER deforestation monitoring system in the Brazilian Amazon

​To control deforestation in the Amazon, the information furnished by satellite imagery are fundamental. The Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (MMA)​, jointly with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT), operates two systems for this purpose. Annual monitoring, more detailed in resolution by the PRODES Project, and a monthly, lower resolution system, used to identify land use change in real time, called DETER. 

​Regional deforestation in the Amazon, that had exhibited a decline from 2004 to 2012, grew 29% between 2012 and 2013. Monthly DETER data published in 2014 had confirmed this tendency toward increased deforestation, ​as had the monthly analysis by the NGO Imazon (Institute of Man and Environment of Amazonia), whose recognized experience and use of the same data as the government from the MODIS sensor permits an independent view. 

In September, based on data referring to the month of August, the MMA suspended the publication of the DETER results, to be restored in November. The last data were published in July. Various reasons were alleged: proximity of national elections (October 5), the system was to be substituted by a more precise instrument, the DETER information was meant to be used for administrative purposes for control by MMA… In our opinion, none of these arguments are coherent. The Brazilian population must be informed, particularly in an election period. The users of DETER are not only MMA agents, but all planetary citizens, for deforestation has a direct impact on the concentration of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere and, therefore over climate change. Finally, good practice implies that data series should never go undisclosed, before a new series is available. The schedule of publication of these statistics should be divulged previously and not be altered without a relevant motivation. 

The current situation of deforestation in the Amazon is very grave. The Imazon data, which continued to be divulged despite the government’s failure, showed an increase in deforestation of 191% in August-September 2014, compared to an equivalent period the year before. These are the first months of the calendar used to measure deforestation in Brazil, and mark the beginning of the burning season. The Brazilian Society for Ecological Economics (ECOECO), through this note protests the delay in publication of the DETER data. Deforestation in Brazil is a problem with international repercussions and to keep the Brazilian and global public opinion uninformed can only contribute to a further worsening of the grave environmental situation of the planet. 

ECOECO hopes that the government will take the necessary measures to revert the recent increase in deforestation, through discussion with society regarding the causes of this process and of the efficacy of the instruments employed to combat it. 

Submitted by Paulo Mibielli Carvalho, Ex-President, ECOECO

Contributing piece by Philip Fearnside; Researcher, National Institute for Research in Amazonia

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