Space Agency Data Reveals There Has Been A Record Number of Fires in Amazon This Year

Amazon rainforest of Brazil experienced a record number of fires this year, as per new space agency data.

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said its satellite data showed an 84% increase on the same period in 2018.

It comes weeks after President Jair Bolsonaro sacked the head of the agency amid rows over its deforestation data.

The Amazon, World’s largest rainforest, is a vital carbon store that helps to slow down the pace of global warming.

It is a habitat for about three million species of plants and animals and one million indigenous people.

The conservationists blame Mr Bolsonaro for the difficulty in Amazon and that he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land. As per the scientists, since he took office in January, the rainforest has suffered losses at an increased rate.

However, the overall fire activity in the Amazon basin this year was slightly below average as per US space agency NASA.

The agency noted that activity had increased in Amazonas and Rondonia but decreased in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará.

Earlier it was reported that a blackout had been caused by smoke from the Amazon fires on Monday in the city of São Paulo which is more than 2,700km (1,700 miles) away.

However, according to some meteorologists, the smoke did not come from the Amazon region but major fires burning in Paraguay.

What is the reason behind the fires in the Amazon?

In Brazil, wildfires do occur in the dry season, but they are started deliberately to facilitate illegal deforestation for cattle ranching.

According to INPE, more than 74,000 fires between January and August had been detected, which is the highest in number since records began in 2013. It also had observed 9,500 and more forest fires mostly in the Amazon region since Thursday.

In comparison to the worst in recent past with more than 68,000 fires in 2016, there are slightly more than 40,000 in the same period of 2018.

Brazil’s most northern state, Roraima found covered in dark smoke in the satellite images while neighboring Amazonas declared a fire emergency.

Mr Bolsonaro updated saying it was the “season of the queimada,” the time when farmers use fire to clear land. “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame,” he was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.

Later he blamed non-governmental organizations for setting those fires as his government slashed their funding. However, no evidence or names were put forward by him to support his claim, saying there were “no written records about the suspicions.”

“So, there could be…, I’m not affirming it, criminal action by these ‘NGOers’ to call attention against my person, against the government of Brazil. It is the war that we are facing,” he said in a Facebook Live on Wednesday.

INPE noted the discrepancy between the numbers of fires occurring with those generally reported during the dry season.

“There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,” INPE researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters.

“The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

According to Ricardo Mello, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Amazon Programme, the fires were “a consequence of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures.”

What should Bolsonaro be criticized for the Amazon fires?

Amid criticism over the environmental policies of Mr. Bolsonaro, the reports of an increase in forest fires came. Since the president took office in January with policies favoring development over conservation, the Amazon has suffered losses at an accelerated rate, scientists say.

Deforestation was reduced by the previous governments with action by federal agencies and a system of fines over the past decade. However, Mr. Bolsonaro, along with his ministers, have criticized the penalties and overseen a decline in seizures of timber and sentences for environmental crimes.

Last month, the far-right president accused INPE’s director of lying about the scale of deforestation in the Amazon and his effort to undermine the government. After INPE published a data showing an 88% increase in deforestation there in June compared to the same month in the last year, it came.

The agency director later announced that he was being sacked amid the row.

INPE has previously insisted on about 95% accuracy of its data. Several scientific institutions, including the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, defended the agency’s reliability.

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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.