After Being Accused of Overlooking Illegal Deforestation, Bolsonaro Sends 44000 Troops For Amazon Fires Damage Control

Amazon Wildfires – Tens of thousands of Brazilian troops are being sent to fight this “unprecedented” operation as Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is accused by the new analysis for causing the soaring environmental crisis.

Some 44,000 troops supported by military aircraft, will be available to put out the fires that have created a 1.2 million square miles wide layer of smoke and destroyed large swathes of priceless pristine Amazon forest.

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As per the new analysis, the number of fines handed out to people for the destruction of environment unlawfully has fallen to a 10-year low.

According to an in-depth analysis by BBC Brazil, the government of Mr Bolsonaro handed out 6,895 fines between the periods 1 January to 23 August with a drop of 29.4 percent from the last year.

Until now there have been 70,000 and more fires this year which is nearly double the number in the same period the previous year.

Mr Bolsonaro, throughout his leadership campaign, declared support for cattle pastures and soybean farms by clearing the jungle. It seems he kept his promise, according to Mike Barrett, executive director of conservation and science at WWF UK.

“The reason why [the number of fires] is higher than before is I think it’s very clear that there has been a change in the political rhetoric within Brazil, and that has led to those who wish to deforest feeling empowered to do so,” he said.

“Because of the size of the Amazon, the Amazon actually stores more carbon than any other living body, any other living ecosystem on the planet, so that’s why it plays such a crucial role in tackling climate change. If we lose the Amazon then we will almost certainly lose the fight against climate change,” Mr Barrett said.

Whether lax enforcement of environmental regulations has contributed to the surge in the number of fires, Brazilian prosecutors are now investigating.

Mr Bolsonaro tried to moderate global concern after facing fierce environmental criticism and said that areas previously deforested had burned and that intact rainforest was spared. In the fire zones, the federal police will be deployed to assist other state agencies and combat “illegal deforestation,” Brazil’s justice ministry said.

The first mission of the military into the Amazon will be carried out around the capital of Rondonia, Porto Velho, by 700 troops, Brazil’s defense minister Fernando Azevedo said. Two C-130 Hercules aircraft will be used by the military that can dump up to 12,000 liters of water on fires, he added.

Hazy conditions and low visibility were reported by an Associated Press journalist while flying over the Porto Velho region. The reporter noticed many already deforested areas that were burned by the people clearing the farmland, and the towering smoke column billowing from one fire.

The Nova Santa Helena municipality in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state was also affected severely. Fires blazed, and embers smoldered in fields close by, and the trucks were seen driving along a highway.

After Mr Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis got criticized worldwide, the Brazilian military operations were initiated. The President authorized the armed forces to tackle fires on Friday, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.

Although it’s a global concern, Mr Bolsonaro told reporters that the situation was returning to normal. He said he was “speaking to everyone” including US President Donald Trump, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and several Latin American leaders about the problem.

The Amazon fires have become a global concern. The tensions between Brazil and European countries are soaring, who believe Mr Bolsonaro has neglected commitments to protect biodiversity. In European and Latin American cities, protesters gathered outside Brazilian diplomatic missions on Friday, and demonstrators even marched in Brazil.

A placard at a protest outside Brazil’s embassy in Mexico City read-“The planet’s lungs are on fire. Let’s save them!”

The dispute sneaks into the economic arena as French leader Emmanuel Macron threatened to block a trade deal of European Union with Brazil and many other countries in South America.

“First we need to help Brazil and other countries put out these fires,” Mr Macron said on Saturday.

Our goal is to “preserve this forest that we all need because it is a treasure of our biodiversity and our climate thanks to the oxygen that it emits and thanks to the carbon it absorbs,” he said.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the G7 leaders “cannot be silent” and should discuss how to help extinguish the fires, in a weekly video message released on Saturday.

In Bolivia controlling the fires that swept through woods and fields has been of many struggles. A US-based aircraft, B747-400 Supertanker, is flying over fire-devastated areas in Bolivia to help in protecting the forests and put out the blazes.

In Chiquitania region of Bolivia, where the woods are usually dry at this time of year, several helicopters, along with military troops, police, fire-fighters, and volunteers on the ground, worked to extinguish fires on Saturday.

In this season it is quite common that farmers set fires to clear land for growing crops or livestock, but sometimes the blazes tend to get out of control.

Arindom Ghosh

A professional writer, blogger, copywriter, and a member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, New York. He has been part of many reputed domestic and global online magazines and publications. An avid reader and a nature lover by heart, when he is not working, he is probably exploring the secrets of life.