The rainforest was depleted by 13,235 square kilometres between August 2020 and July 2021.
The 15-year high flies in the face of President Jair Bolsonaro government’s recent attempts to boost its environmental credibility, having moved forward its commitment to end illegal deforestation at the COP26 climate summit in glasgow
The Brazilian Amazon had not recorded a single year with more than 10,000 sq km of deforestation in over a decade before Mr Bolsonaro assumed power in January 2019.
Between 2009 and 2018, the average was 6,500 sq km. Since then, the annual average leaped to 11,405 sq km, and the three-year total is an area bigger than the state of Maryland.
“It is a shame. It is a crime,” Marcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental nonprofit groups, told The Associated Press. “We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy.”
Mr Bolsonaro took office with promises to develop the Amazon, dismissing global outcry about its destruction.
The state of Para accounted for 40 per cent of the most recent deforestation, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research’s Prodes monitoring system.
But its year-on-year increase was slight compared to Mato Grosso and Amazonas states, which together accounted for 34 per cent of the the region’s destruction. The two states suffered 27 per cent and 55 per cent more deforestation, respectively.
And early data for the 2021-2022 reference period signals further deterioration. The space agency’s monthly monitoring system, Deter, detected higher deforestation year-on-year during both September and October.
“This is the real Brazil that the Bolsonaro government tries to hide with fantastical speeches and actions of greenwashing abroad,” Mauricio Voivodic, international environmental group WWF’s executive director for Brazil, said in a statement after release of the Prodes data.