Climate Change

Record surge in forest fires in Amazon rainforest

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research detected 72,000 fires between January and August, 2019

Published: Wednesday 21 August 2019

Fires in Amazon rainforest have increased by 84 per cent this year, according to satellite data released by Brazil's space research agency

The National Institute for Space Research, Brazil detected 72,000 fires between January and August, 2019, the highest since 2013. The fire caused an hour-long daytime blackout in the city of Sao Paulo owing to smoke coming from a forest burning 2,700 kms away.

Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, plays the vital role of a carbon sink and slows down the rate of global warming. Millions of animal species and indigenous populations inhabit it.

Around 9,500 fires have been observed there since the last Thursday. Dry season provides favourable conditions for wildfires in Brazil, but they are also often caused by fires meant to clear the land for cattle ranching.

Amazonas, a state in Brazil, declared an emergency in the wake of the fires while the satellite images showed states of Roraima engulfed in dark smoke.

The country saw 88 per cent increase in deforestation in June 2019, according to data published by the research agency. But, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the data saying it's a season when farmers use fire to clear land. 

However, conservationists blame Bolsonaro for encouraging loggers and farmers to clear the land resulting in rampant forest fire and deforestation. Scientists believe the loss of forest in Amazon is taking place at faster rate since the new president took to office in January 2019. 

On August 23, 2019, UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon and called for the rainforest to be protected.  

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