Can satellite imagery fight illegal logging in Mexico?

by | May 26, 2023 | World

Cheran, Mexico – Shortly after sunrise, several women arrive at a tree nursery on the outskirts of Cheran, an Indigenous Purepecha town in the Mexican state of Michoacan.For years, they have cared for thousands of trees being used to reforest areas destroyed by illegal logging operations. Between 2006 and 2012, researchers estimate that about 70 percent of Cheran’s forests were ravaged by organised criminals as locals staged protests to denounce police inaction.
During those years, residents became used to the sight of dozens of trucks driving through their town, loaded with timber stolen from local forests. Violent confrontations ensued, with more than a dozen community members reportedly killed or disappeared.
“The devastation was massive,” Yunuen Torres, who lives in the town, told Al Jazeera. People were forced to sell their land to the criminals, and if they refused, they sometimes disappeared, Torres added.
Today, the state of Michoacan is on the cusp of rolling out a new surveillance system designed to help combat this type of crime.
On June 5, World Environment Day, the state government will begin using a satellite analysis tool that can detect changes in forest cover caused by logging, fires or new crops. The system will generate automatic alerts when such changes are detected.
“We had great impunity,” Alejandro Mendez, Michoacan’s environment secretary, told Al Jazeera. “What we need is to regain control as a government because the collective interest is to take care of forests.”
Authorities in the state of Michoac …

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