Recent data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE, in Portuguese) indicates that the Brazilian Amazon lost 3,769 square miles of vegetation in a single year. The deforested area, which is larger than Puerto Rico, refers to the period of August 2018-July 2019, and increased 29.5 percent compared to the previous year.
The Amazon Deforestation Satellite Monitoring Project, which generates yearly reports, provided this information. According to INPE, the deforested area is the largest since 2008.
Faced with this reality, the Brazilian Armed Forces have been dedicating efforts to the fight against deforestation, illegal mining, and illegally setting fires in the Amazon. For instance, in December 2019, the Brazilian Army conducted Operation Puretê I to fight environmental crimes in the state of Amazonas, which represented 14.5 percent of the deforested area in the past year.
Service members from the 16th Jungle Infantry Brigade entered the Içá and Puretê River region, near the border with Colombia and the center of illegal extraction of timber and minerals. “Service members from the 3rd Special Forces Company and 2nd Special Border Platoon, who patrolled the entire Puretê River channel and part of the Içá River, also participated,” said the Brazilian Army’s Social Communication Center (CCOMSEx, in Portuguese) to Diálogo.
Federal Police agents and the Brazilian Institute of Environment also joined Puretê I, with the support of two Jungle Operations detachments from the Solimões Border Command/8th Jungle Infantry Battalion (Cmdo Fron Sol/8º BIS, in Portuguese), and a helicopter from the 4th Army Aviation Battalion.
“The agents and the Army curbed transnational narcotrafficking and crimes against the environment, especially illegal mining,” CCOMSEx said. “The operation was carried out by monitoring gold dredges located in the Puretê River.”
The Cmdo Fron Sol/8º BIS Platoon contributed to the seizure of roughly 10,000 alevins (recently hatched fish) of various species from inside a speedboat, CCOMSEx said. The fish were taken to the Federal Police station.
Cooperation with Colombia
Brazilian service members have increased cooperation efforts with the armed forces of neighboring countries in order to preserve the Amazon. One of these initiatives is the annual Regional Military Exchange Meeting between Brazil and Colombia to curb environmental and transnational crimes.
“This activity is essential to coordinate procedures to combat crimes along the border,” CCOMSEx said. “The goal is to exchange experiences and knowledge of common interest linked to control and security in the border region, in addition to fostering friendly ties and camaraderie among participating service members.”
The Brazilian Armed Forces also intensified coordination with civilian authorities to fight environmental crimes in the country’s northern region. Such was the case of the joint operation conducted on February 10, 2020, when Civil Police officers, Amazonas Environmental Protection Institute (IPAAM, in Portuguese), and Military Police from the Amazonas Environmental Police Battalion blocked an illegal logging company that operated in the municipality of Manacapuru.
“We seized a tractor, equipment used to extract timber, and a large amount of unregistered timber,” said Chief Police Officer Carla Biaggi, head of the Police Precinct Specialized in Crimes Against the Environment and Urbanism of the Civil Police of Amazonas.
In the second half of 2019, IPAAM implemented a remote sensor system to improve the detection of environmental crimes. The technique maps deforestations and fires through sensors installed in satellites.
“The use of this technology will allow us to identify and take measures of the affected area,” said IPAAM Geoprocessing manager, José Luiz Nascimento. According to him, the cross referencing of information through the Geographic Information System will facilitate the collection of information of perpetrators, such as their names, enabling authorities to take appropriate measures.