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The Amazon rainforest, which is twice the size of India, holds large amounts of carbon which are crucial to fighting climate change. Studies show that protected Indigenous land holds 50 percent more carbon per hectare than unprotected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, and that protecting Indigenous territories in the region could prevent more than 15 million respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva legally recognized nearly 800 square miles of Indigenous lands on Friday in an effort to stop illegal logging, mining and land grabbing, reversing policies enacted by his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right leader who encouraged development in the Amazon.

Those policies spurred a frenzy of activity, including illegal gold mining and clandestine farming in Indigenous territories, devastating the environment and fueling violence.

Under Lula’s new designation, mining activities are now prohibited, and commercial farming and logging require specific authorization by the Brazilian government. Non-Indigenous people are forbidden from engaging in any economic activity on Indigenous lands.

Under Bolsonaro, the Amazon saw a 56 percent increase in deforestation, the destruction of nearly 13,000 square miles of rainforest, and the loss of nearly 965 square miles of Indigenous territories.

Source: Grist