Wildfires are raging through the Amazon, the largest rainforest in the world, even as the global community have expressed concern over the loss of vast swathes of forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.
While it is important to track down the source or the exact cause of the fire, it is even more important to assist Brazil in containing wildfires that are raging in the Amazon state of Pará, threatening the rainforest and nearby communities.
It is heartening to note that Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has issued a decree, which authorises the deployment of soldiers in nature reserves, indigenous lands and border areas in the region to help fight a “record number” of forest fires in the Amazon.
Bolsonaro has criticised the reaction of some other nations, insisting wildfires “cannot be used as a pretext” for punitive sanctions.
“The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?” he told the media recently.
“We do not have the resources for that,” Bolsonaro said as the fires are burning across a range of states in Brazil’s section of the Amazon rainforest.
It came after France and Ireland said they would not ratify a huge trade deal with South American nations unless Brazil does more to tackle blazes in the Amazon.
Given the seriousness of the issue, France and Germany said that the Amazon fires should be added to the agenda of the Group of 7 summit, which began at seaside town of Biarritz in southwest France yesterday.
The Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. It is known as the “lungs of the world” and is home to about 3mn species of plants and animals, and 1mn indigenous people.
Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space Research has shown an increase of 85% this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region.
Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture.
The rate of forest destruction soared more than 278% in July compared with the same month a year ago, Doha-based international broadcaster Al Jazeera said citing a research by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute.
Previously, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research pegged the rate of deforestation in June at 88% higher than during the corresponding month in 2018.
The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world, covering more than 5mn sq km across nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
The Amazon has been inhabited by humans for at least 11,000 years and is home to more than 30mn people – about two-thirds of whom live in cities carved out of the greenery, Al Jazeera said.
Among those living in the region are about 1mn indigenous people who are divided into some 400 tribes, according to indigenous rights group Survival International.
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