Wires

UPDATE 1-Brazil Amazon deforestation soars to 11-year high in 2019

Marcelo Teixeira

(Adds context, environment minister comments)

SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil, Nov 18 (Reuters) - D eforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest rose to its highest in over a decade this year, government data on Monday showed, confirming a sharp rise under the leadership of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil's INPE space research agency said deforestation reached 9,762 square kilometers, up 29.5%, for the 12 months through July 2019.

That's the worst level of deforestation since 2008, heaping further pressure on the environmental policy of Bolsonaro who favors developing the Amazon region economically.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles told reporters in a briefing on the figures that Brazil would roll out a series of measures to counter the rising deforestation, including stepping up enforcement efforts assisted by high-resolution satellite imaging.

Salles said he would meet with governors of Amazon states on Wednesday to further discuss tactics to counter deforestation, adding that the figures show a new strategy was needed and that sustainable economic opportunities must be developed in the region.

The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest and is considered key to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs. (Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrea Ricci)