Brazil: the Amazon and the Pantanal in flames, Bolsonaro under pressure

Photo of author

By admin

Forest fires continue to wreak havoc in Brazil, with a sharp increase in outbreaks in September in the Amazon and the Pantanal, fueling more and more criticism of the environmental policy of Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

Official figures released Thursday show that the situation has deteriorated further, a year after the great emotion aroused by the resurgence of fires in the Amazon, during the first year in office of the far-right president.

Satellites from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) identified 32,017 fires in the Amazon last month, up 61% from September 2019.

Over the first nine months of the year, the total amounted to 76,030 households, compared to 66,749 from January to September 2019, an increase of 14%.

Most of these fires are arson, consisting of agricultural burns on illegally deforested areas. However, the government banned all burning for a period of 4 months in July.

Further south, in the Pantanal, the fires have broken all records: with 8,106 outbreaks, September 2020 is by far the worst month since these statistics began to be drawn up by the INPE in 1998.

The record for a whole year, which dated from 2005 (12,536 outbreaks) has already been smashed in nine months, with 18,259 outbreaks since January.

In September 2019, 2,887 outbreaks had been identified in the Pantanal, the largest wetland on the planet, straddling Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Due in particular to an exceptional drought, the worst in half a century, these fires devastated 23% of the Brazilian part of the Pantanal, according to data collected by the Laboratory for the Application of Environmental Satellites (LASA) of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

This biodiversity sanctuary is home to extraordinary wildlife. But today, many once-verdant landscapes are now littered with charred animal corpses.

Deceptive graphic

“Brazil is in flames. From the Amazon to the Pantanal, the environmental heritage of all Brazilians is being reduced to ashes, ”denounces Cristiane Mazzetti, from the local branch of Greenpeace, quoted in a press release.

“This is the consequence of the policy of the Bolsonaro government, which, despite the predictions of drought in the Pantanal, did not use the necessary means for the prevention of fires”, she adds.

Last weekend, the Brazilian government circulated on social media a graphic purported to show a decrease in forest fires in 2020.

But the figures on display showed the areas that burned from January to August, compared to those for the 12 months of previous years.

Brazil is under increasing pressure, including from investors, in the face of the scale of deforestation and forest fires.

Due to deforestation, several countries, notably France, have recently expressed their opposition to the trade agreement between the European Union and the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) in its current form.

“International covetousness”

Despite the edifying data provided by the INPE, a public body recognized throughout the world, President Jair Bolsonaro, in favor of the opening of protected areas to mining or agricultural activities, has continued to denounce a campaign of “disinformation” on the Pantanal and the Amazon.

On Wednesday, this unconditional ally of US President Donald Trump deemed “disastrous” on Twitter the words of Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden, who threatened, if elected, to take economic sanctions if the southern country American failed to curb deforestation.

A few hours later, during a speech at the United Nations Biodiversity Summit, he was moved by the “international lust” for Brazil’s natural resources.

The far-right leader also accused “certain NGOs” of being behind “environmental crimes” to generate bad publicity in Brazil.

Last week, during his speech to the UN General Assembly, he had already caused a heated controversy by claiming that the fires in the Amazon were caused by indigenous people who used traditional techniques of itinerant burning.

A version refuted by environmentalists and many locals, including the emblematic cacique Raoni Metuktire.

Leave a Comment