Brazil Puts A 60-Day Ban On Land Clearance Blazes As Damage Control Measure For Amazon Fires

Ban declared on land clearance fires in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil for 60 days to effectively deal with the high increase in the number of fires.

After facing intense criticism at home and abroad on his failure to protect the rainforest, the decree was signed by President Jair Bolsonaro.

There was a warning from a leading Brazilian environmentalist on Wednesday – “worst of the fire is yet to come.”

Next week the South American countries will meet to discuss the crisis.

The impact that the ban will have remains unclear, as environmentalists say the overwhelming majority of forest clearance is already illegal and enforcement is lax in the Brazilian Amazon.

This year more than 80,000 fires broke out till date in the Amazon, which is a vital carbon store for slowing down the pace of global warming, accounting for a 77% rise in the same period in 2018.

Policies enacted by Mr Bolsonaro’s administration caused the increase, which is due in part according to the Environmentalists.

What does the decree say?

The prosecutors investigated allegations of some of the fires activated by illegal clearing of land, and at present, across the entire country, the decree bans setting fires for this purpose.

There are three exceptions. They are: if fires are authorized by environmental authorities for plant health-related reasons; as a preventative measure to fight wildfires; and as a part of traditional subsistence agriculture practices of indigenous people.

Why could be the worst to follow?

Tasso Azevedo, the person who runs the deforestation monitoring group, Mapbiomas while writing in O Globo newspaper, said, in case of clearing the forest, trees and vegetation should be cut down and left for a few weeks till it is dry enough to set on fire.

The forest clearing in April, May, and June resulted into current fires, he wrote, however, the rate of clearing in July and August jumped sharply, suggesting the presence of much combustible fuel on the ground waiting for ignition.

A ban was called by Mr Azevedo on the fire use until the end of the dry season in November in the Amazon region.

According to him, urgent action is required to end mostly illegal deforestation linked to criminal groups involved in timber theft, land grabbing, and gold mining.

“What we are experiencing is a real crisis, which can turn into a tragedy that will feature fires much larger than the current ones if not stopped immediately,” he said.

What other efforts Brazil is making to deal with Amazon Fires?

Mr Bolsonaro has refused a G7 offer of $22m (£18m) following a spat with French President Emmanuel Macron but accepted Chile’s four planes’ offer to fight the fires, the most in Brazil since 2010.

As per the government, 44,000 soldiers have been deployed to combat the fire. After Mr Bolsonaro said last week that the authorities did not have the resources to fight the blazes, it came.

The federal police officers would be sent to the fire zones to assist other state agencies in combating “illegal deforestation,” the justice ministry says.

Brazil’s Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva told local media on Monday that the situation was “not simple, but it is under control and cooling down nicely.”

On Tuesday, speaking to the BBC, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former Brazilian president who is in prison following corruption convictions, accused Mr Bolsonaro of “causing tremendous evil to Brazilian people.”

More fires than in recent years?

Data published by Brazil’s space agency suggests there are. INPE (The National Institute for Space Research) says there have been 83,000 and more fires between 1 January 2019 and 27 August 2019. There is a 77% rise than the same period in 2018.

The “2019 fires season has the highest fire count since 2012,” NASA has also warned.

BBC analysis has also found a sharp decline in fines being handed out for environmental violations coincides with the high number of fires being recorded.

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About Arindom Ghosh

A professional writer, editor, 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.