Nearly a fifth less forest was lost compared with 2018, but there are fears destruction of the environment may be accelerating this year
BOGOTA, July 9 (Reuters) - Colombia lost 158,894 hectares (392,636 acres) of forest in 2019, a 19% drop from the previous year, the government reported on Thursday, amid fears that destruction of the environment may have accelerated in 2020.
In 2018, Colombia, the world's second-most biodiverse country after neighboring Brazil, saw 197,159 hectares (487,190 acres) of deforestation, according to government figures.
Deforestation spiked after Colombia signed a peace deal in 2016 with its largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as swaths of land became more accessible.
Government data shows that in 2017, almost 220,000 hectares (543,630 acres) of forest were destroyed, compared with about 124,000 hectares (306,410 acres) in 2015.
"We cannot lower our guard against one of the most tragic problems our country faces," said acting Environment Minister Maria Claudia Garcia.
"The challenge continues to be very big. We are moving in the right direction and we hope we can count on the participation of all Colombians in the fight against deforestation," she said in a statement.
Colombia's Amazon region accounted for the majority of deforestation in 2019 - representing 62% of the total - with 98,256 hectares (242,795 acres) of forest destroyed.
Through April 15 of this year, just over 75,000 hectares (185,325 acres) of forest were destroyed in Colombia's Amazon region, according to a report published by the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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