Amazon Basin: 72,000 fires this year


Just as bad as now, the forest fires in the Amazon haven't been that way for years – and it should be even worse because of the drought. The Bolsonaro government focuses on the economy rather than environmental protection.

By Anne Herrberg, ARD Studio Buenos Aires

Flute and angry for the environment minister of Brazil. Ricardo Salles had come to Salvador de Bahia as a speaker, now there is the Latin American climate week – and the minister of Jair Bolsonaro wanted to defend his government's Amazon policy. "The Amazon is on fire," say the posters, which are held up in the public.

Brazil experiences the worst forest fires in years. Large parts of the southern Amazon basin and the Pantanal wetlands are in flames – even in Bolivia and Paraguay the forest burns in the border region with Argentina, the Gran Chaco. But nowhere are there as many fires as in Brazil. This is evident from the latest figures from the Space Institute INPE and NASA satellite images.

The cause is a dangerous mix of people and drought

In the first half of August alone, 9,500 fires were recorded and 72,000 fires since the beginning of the year – an increase of more than 80 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. The situation is exacerbated by the continuing drought, in some regions it hasn't rained for weeks, a small spark is sufficient and everything is on fire. But the fires would be fired by people, explains Marcio Castrini of Greenpeace Brazil.

"One way to destroy the forest is to set fire to the undergrowth and clear soil, this is a popular method, there is a clear link between fires and the massive increase in deforestation in the Amazon, and the current Bolsonaro government leads to deforestation. "

Loggers, settlers, gold diggers, the agricultural industry. Bolsonaro wants growth instead of forest protection, deforestation of the Amazon for agriculture, mining and infrastructure is a kind of economic stimulus for him.

On August 10, landowners in the Amazon state of Pará proclaimed a "Day of Fire", shortly thereafter the INPE Space Institute registered a peak in fires in the region. The consequences had no consequences for the arsonist.

"The government's message is that environmental crime will not be punished, and at the same time it has reduced the ability of the state to fight environmental crime, which is an empowerment for those who continue to invade the jungle."

Bolsonaro accused environmental activists – without evidence

Everyone who criticizes this becomes an enemy. For example, Germany or Norway, which have established funds for the protection of the rainforest on ice. Bolsonaro now accuses environmental protection organizations of causing the fires themselves – in revenge for his government's curtailment of funds:

"It could be a criminal act of these NGOs to draw attention to me and to the Brazilian government, which is the war we are facing."

However, he has no proof of that.

An absurd claim, says Marcio Astrini of Greenpeace:

"The purpose of the government is to divert attention from its own responsibility, because responsibility for the fires, deforestation, and environmental crime in the Amazon have name and address: the Bolsonaro government."

Now the president wants to send soldiers to the areas affected by the fire. The most effective cure for fires is rain. But with September, Brazil is, according to experience, the driest month yet to come. The fires could increase in these weeks.

The topics of the day were reported on this topic on August 21, 2019 at 10:15 p.m. and on Deutschlandfunk on August 22, 2019 at 6:17 p.m.