point of view

The Amazon on fire

Brasil em chamas - fogo no Brasil - fire - Amazon

They set fire to Brazil. The highest number of outbreaks of fire in the countryside and in the forest in history were recorded in September: more than 197 thousand. Almost half of them in the Amazon. In September 2016, there were 44 thousand outbreaks; the average for the month is 55 thousand. And it is not possible to explain so much fire only by natural phenomena, such as the drought that punishes several regions of the country: most of the time – if not all of them – it was the man who lit a match. And on purpose.

“lightning and natural occurrences are responsible for a maximum of 1% of recorded fire outbreaks. The low air humidity air only creates favorable conditions for the fires, but it is the human action that causes the burning “, says the coordinator of Programa de Queimadas e Incêndios (Burnings and Fires) of the National Institute of Space Research (INPE), Alberto Setzer. “At this time of year, practically 100% of the fires are caused by human action,” confirms Gabriel Zacharias, coordinator of PREVFOGO, an agency for prevention and fire fighting. Setzer points out that the burnings precede the planting of grains. The burned areas are then deforested and occupied, as part of the strategy of invasion of public lands. It’s the old story: where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

The fire burned the country north and south, including Conservation Units and Indigenous Territories. A fire destroyed 1,200 hectares of Atlantic Forest in the Serra da Bocaina, on the border between Rio and São Paulo; another burned 4,300 hectares of the Chapada dos Guimarães in Mato Grosso; the damage in the Araguaia National Park is equivalent to an area twice as large as the city of São Paulo; the Ilha Grande Park (border to Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraná), lost 35 thousand hectares; and the Xingu Indigenous Park, 39,000 hectares, or 15% of its area. The fires are a precursor for a rate of deforestation that should be as high as that of 2016, and a CO2 emissions rate well above our commitment to the Paris Accord.

Brazil has the best and most robust burn monitoring system in the world. There are ten satellites that make an uninterrupted sweep of the country, generating 250 images per day. It is more difficult to fight the fire. It is not enough that we have dry weather, the government still cut 43% of the budget of the Ministry of Environment. “The most important thing is not to put the blame on the drought, which has been going on for years, with a more or less intensity. As long as there is no supervision that can handle this amount of fires, we will deal with forest fires,” says Cláudia Ramos, researcher at the Center for Higher Amazonian Studies at the Federal University of Pará. Cutting fire prevention funding is like throwing gasoline into the fire.

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