Hundreds of new fires in Brazil as outrage over Amazon grows | Pakistan Today

Hundreds of new fires in Brazil as outrage over Amazon grows

RIO: Hundreds of new fires are raging in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, official data showed Saturday, as thousands of troops were made available to help fight the worst blazes in years following a global outcry.

Multiple fires billowing huge plumes of smoke into the air were seen across a vast area of the northwestern state of Rondonia on Friday when AFP journalists flew over the area.

Several residents in the capital, Porto Velho, told AFP on Saturday that what appeared to be light clouds hanging over the city of half a million people, was actually smoke from the blazes that had scorched swaths of land and left tree trunks smoldering on the ground.

“I’m very worried because of the environment and health,” Delmara Conceicao Silva told AFP.

“I have a daughter with respiratory problems and she suffers more because of the fires.”

The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global uproar, and are a major topic of concern at the G7 meeting in Biarritz in southern France.

Official figures show 78,383 forest fires have been recorded in Brazil this year, the highest number of any year since 2013. Experts say the clearing of land during the monthslong dry season to make way for crops or grazing, has aggravated the problem.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin, where more than 20 million people live. Some 1,663 new fires were ignited between Thursday and Friday, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The new data came a day after Bolsonaro authorized deployment of the military to fight the fires and crack down on criminal activity.

Seven states, including Rondonia, have requested the army’s help in the Amazon, where more than 43,000 troops are based and available to combat fires, officials said. Firefighters and planes are also being deployed.

Six aircraft, including two Hercules C-130s equipped to carry 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) of water each, have been sent to Rondonia to fight the fires. They are expected to be joined by 30 firefighters on Sunday.

HELP IS WELCOME

US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both attending the G7 summit, have offered their countries’ assistance in fighting the fires.

“Any help is welcome in respect to the fires,” Brazil’s Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva told reporters on Saturday.

The blazes have stirred outrage globally, with thousands of people protesting in Brazil and Europe on Friday. More demonstrations are planned in Brazil on Sunday.

Earlier this week, Bolsonaro, whose anti-environment rhetoric since coming to power in January has been blamed for harming the Amazon and indigenous tribes, accused non-governmental organizations of deliberately starting the fires after their funding was cut.

The growing crisis threatens to torpedo a blockbuster trade deal between the European Union and South American countries, including Brazil, that took 20 years to negotiate.

EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters at the G7 on Saturday that it was hard to imagine European countries ratifying a trade pact with the Mercosur bloc as long as Brazil fails to curb the fires ravaging the Amazon, which is known as the “lungs of the planet” because of its crucial role in mitigating climate change.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has taken the lead in pressing his Brazilian counterpart over the fires, had earlier accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about Brazil’s stance on climate change.

In an escalating war of words between the two leaders, Bolsonaro denounced what he calls Macron’s “colonialist mentality.”

Environmental specialists say the fires are coming amid increasing deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July took place at a rate four times that of the same month in 2018, according to data from INPE.

Bolsonaro has previously attacked the institute, describing its data as lies and engineering the sacking of its head.

On Friday, he insisted that the fires should not be used as an excuse to punish Brazil.

“There are forest fires all over the world, and this cannot be used as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” Bolsonaro said.

Brazil’s powerful agriculture sector — which strongly supports Bolsonaro — has expressed concerns over the president’s rhetoric, fearing boycotts of their products in key markets.

In an editorial Saturday, the respected Folha de S.Paulo newspaper warned that Bolsonaro’s “bravado” had worsened the crisis caused by accelerating deforestation.

“The damage to (Brazil’s) image is done, and it could have important trade repercussions,” it said.

“Nationalistic bravado will not win the game this time.”

GLOBAL APPETITE FOR BEEF, SOY FUELING FIRES

Two of the industries involved in the infernos consuming the Amazon rainforest and drawing the attention of global powers gathered at the G7 meeting in France are familiar to diners worldwide: soy and beef.

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, with a record 1.64 million tons sent to its top markets China, Egypt and the European Union in 2018, according to the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association.

The country has seen its production surge over the past two decades, with exports measured in both weight and value increasing by 10 times between 1997 and 2016, led by three behemoth companies: JBS, Minerva and Marfrig.

All this growth has come at the expense of the Amazon.

“Extensive cattle farming is the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon, with just over 65 percent of deforested land in the Amazon now being grazed,” according to Romulo Batista, a researcher at Greenpeace.

Soybeans, a major cash crop for Brazil, were also once a major contributor to deforestation.

The crop saw a dramatic rise in cultivation in the 1970s, fueled by the migration of farmers, the development of new cultivation techniques and the use of pesticides.

Brazil exported a record 83.3 million tons of the crop in 2018, up 22.2 percent from 2017, according to Brazil’s economy ministry.

The country is the top supplier of soybeans to the United States, but sends the most overall to China.

Brazilian soybean exports to China jumped nearly 30 percent last year thanks to the trade dispute with Washington that pushed Beijing to look for other sources of the crop it uses to feed cattle.

About 6.5 percent of the deforested area in the Amazon is used for agriculture, but the contribution of soybeans to that has decreased over time.

A moratorium on buying soy from newly deforested areas came into force in 2006, and “less than two percent of the soya planted in the Amazon comes from deforested areas since 2008,” Batista said.

However, other forests in Brazil such as the Cerrado are being cleared for soybean cultivation. In June, Greenpeace denounced Europe’s “addiction” to Brazilian soy used for pig and poultry farms.



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