Tuesday, 17 September 2019

As forest fires rage, experts worry about the future of the Amazon

Photo Credit: Reuters

There are more than 165,000 fires burning in the Amazon rainforest – and a significant number of them, more than 75,000, are burning in Brazil.

The Amazon spans more than 5.5 million square kilometres, is home to roughly 40,000 plant species, 1,300 bird species and 2.5 million species of insects. And it is in crisis, experts say.

And what’s making it worse, say some, are some of the economic and environmental policies put in place by the Brazilian government under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician who has questioned the existence of climate change.

“This is the time of year when farmers set fires for cultivation and farming,” said Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch, a non-profit organization that advocates for the protection of the rainforest.

“It’s not unusual, but there’s been an 84 per cent jump between this year and last year, exceeding 70,000 fires.”

While some of the fires are naturally occurring, Amnesty International has also documented a number of arson attacks, allegedly by illegal loggers, miners and cattle ranchers, in Indigenous territories in the Amazon this year, including in Rondonia state, said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty’s secretary general.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil said Thursday that they will investigate the rising rate of deforestation and increase in wildfires to determine whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections.

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