Brazil is reporting more fires in the Amazon so far this year than all of 2021

Brazil is reporting more fires in the Amazon so far this year than all of 2021

View of a burned area of ​​the Amazon rainforest in the Candeias do Jamari region, Rondonia state, northern Brazil, on September 2, 2022.

The number of wildfires in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year has already surpassed that for all of 2021, according to official figures released on Monday, triggering fresh alarm for the world’s largest rainforest.

Satellite monitoring detected 75,592 fires between January 1 and September 18, already higher than the 75,090 detected for all of last year, according to Brazil’s space agency, INPE.

The latest grim news from the rainforest is likely to add to the pressure on President Jair Bolsonaro, who is fighting to win re-election next month and faces international criticism over a spate of destruction in the Amazon under his watch.

Since the far-right agribusiness ally took office in January 2019, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent over the previous decade, destroying the forest cover of an area nearly the size of Puerto Rico last year.

Experts say the fires in the Amazon are mainly caused by illegal farmers, ranchers and speculators who clear the land and burn the trees.

Despite the advance destruction, the Bolsonaro administration has slashed budgets for environmental enforcement operations and pushed to open protected lands in the Amazon to mining.

Greenpeace Brazil spokesman Andre Freitas called the latest figures a “predicted tragedy”.

“After four years of a clear and objective anti-environmental policy of the federal government, we see that as we approach the end of this government’s mandate – one of the darkest periods ever for the Brazilian environment – land grabbers and other illegal actors. see it as a perfect opportunity to advance the forest,” he said in a statement.

The turn of the election year

This has been a worrisome year for the Amazon, a key buffer against global warming.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last month was almost double that of August 2021, at 1,661 square kilometers (641 square miles).

And since the burning season really started in August, with the arrival of drier weather, the number of fires has increased.

According to INPE figures, it has been several days since the so-called “Fire Day” of August 10, 2019, when farmers launched a coordinated plan to burn huge amounts of clear-cut rainforest in the northern state of Para.

The fires then sent thick, gray smoke as far as Sao Paulo, some 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) away, and sparked a global outcry for images of one of Earth’s most vital resources burning.

Bolsonaro vehemently rejects this criticism, insisting that Brazil “protects its forests much better than Europe” and brushes off international alarm with the following line: “The Amazon belongs to Brazilians and always will.”

Former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is vying to unseat him in next month’s presidential election, has vowed to do a better job protecting the Amazon.

Deforestation in 60 percent of the Amazon basin fell sharply under Lula, from nearly 28,000 square kilometers in 2004 to 7,000 in 2010.

However, he faced criticism from environmentalists for his own record, which notably included the controversial decision to build the huge Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon.

And the highest number of fires ever recorded in the Brazilian Amazon by INPE, whose records date back to 1998, was under its watch: 218,637 in 2004.

Brazil records worst day for Amazon fires in 15 years

© 2022 AFP

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