Protecting the native inhabitants of the Amazon and their right to ancestral lands is crucial to saving the rainforest because they are its best guardians, environmental activists said on Monday.
But their rights to protected lands are being undermined by the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro, they said on a panel at the Reuters Impact conference on the fate of the Amazon rainforest.
“What we are seeing is an attack on indigenous people, on their rights, their lives and territories,” said Leila Salazar-Lopez, executive director of Amazon Watch.
Ginger Cassady, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, said the actions of the Bolsonaro government have continued to increase deforestation by dismantling environmental protections despite its promises.
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has risen sharply since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. Although preliminary data suggest clearing so far this year is little changed from last year, destruction remains at a level not seen in Brazil since 2008.
After years of funding cuts and hiring freezes, Bolsonaro promised to double resources for environmental enforcement to combat illegal deforestation at a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September.