London, Dec 1 : Satellite images have revealed that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has accelerated for the first time in four years.
According to a report by BBC News, satellite images show 11,968 sq km of land was cleared in this year to July, nearly 4 percent higher than the year before.
In recent years, the Brazilian government has been able to celebrate three successive falls in deforestation.
But, the latest estimate from the National Institute for Space Research, known as INPE, shows that this trend has come to a halt.
"We believe it is a setback, but we believe it is also positive in the sense that the expected levels were much higher," said Gilberto Camara of the Space Research Institute.
"There was a lot of burning on the ground in the second half of 2007, which could have led to a much greater increase in deforestation," he added.
In late 2007 and early 2008, there were signs that deforestation was on the rise again, with land said to be in demand for cattle and soya at a time when commodity prices were high, according to the BBC's Garry Duffy in Sao Paulo.
The high commodity prices had allegedly tempted farmers to clear more land.
In response, the Brazilian government announced a series of measures to clamp down on illegal logging, including a major operation involving police and environmental inspectors known as the "Arc of Fire".
According to Brazil's Environment Minister, Carlos Minc, the figure was unsatisfactory, but could have been a lot worse if it had not taken action against illegal logging.
"Many had expected an increase of 30-40 percent and we managed to stabilise it," he said.
But Minc said that the government was still not satisfied. "We want to lower numbers even more. We want zero deforestation," he said.