Last week, president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, who has faced intense criticism at home and abroad for failing to protect the rainforest, signed an order banning all land clearance fires for 60 days in response to a massive increase in the number of fires in the Amazon rainforest.
But according to Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), 3,859 new outbreaks were recorded in Brazil in the 48 hours following the 60-day ban on starting fires. Roughly 2,000 of those fires are in the Amazon rainforest.
Bolsonaro continues to claim that the number of fires is actually lower than it has been in previous years, yet research highlights a rise in deforestation. A study produced by the INPE in July showed that in June 2019 alone, the Amazon rainforest lost over 2,072 square kilometers (800 square miles) to deforestation, that’s an area bigger than the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This is an increase of 15 percent compared to the same period last year.
The figures come as the latest blow in an environmental crisis that has caused panic across the world, and which led the agenda at the recent G7 summit in France.
Nearly 2,000 new fires have broken out in the Amazon since the Brazilian government banned land clearing fires pic.twitter.com/XBgH28HR3o
— TRT World (@trtworld) September 2, 2019
The South American country has had more than 72,000 fire outbreaks up to this point this year. This represents an 84 percent increase in comparison with the same period in 2018. The vast majority of the fires affected the rainforest.
The burning ban has been seen as a move to appease international outcry about the Amazon’s fires, but as activist Tasso Azevedo, who runs the deforestation-monitoring group Mapbiomas, wrote in the newspaper O Globo, the worst may be yet to come.
The problem is that deforestation has continued to grow significantly over the past two months and it remains legal to indiscriminately chop down large swathes of the rainforest. Azevedo believes that once the ban ends, the chopped trees will be burned down by the many private organizations interested in turning the Amazon rainforest into something more profitable than a priceless habitat rich in biodiversity.
“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,” Azevedo writes, calling for the ban to be extended until at least late November when the dry season ends.
Photos: Google images