SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, August 25, 2019– A change in the winds during the last day has caused the fires in the Amazon to intensify. New fire points have been registered in the Chiquitanía, in Bolivia, and the Pantanal, in Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. The amount of heat points in the Amazon is already more than 80% higher than in 2018.
The efforts from thousands of Bolivian volunteers, forest firefighters and protection groups in protected areas, who work without basic equipment such as masks and boots, have not been enough to stop and put out the fire. Since Friday, August 23, a Super Tanker aircraft with a capacity of 72,000 liters of water, rented by the State of Bolivia, has been flying over some of the affected areas, but this effort has not been enough to mitigate the flames.
According to a report by the Santa Cruz Autonomous Departmental Government in Bolivia, 1 million hectares could be affected to this date. There have been protests in different intermediate cities near the most impacted points since yesterday and there are more mobilizations today throughout the country, requesting international help.
On the other hand, given the critical state of fires in the Amazon, the president of Brazil communicated through mass media that there is “zero tolerance” for crimes against the environment and has deployed military forces to fight the fire. World leaders have also voiced their concerns for the emergency in the Amazon.
Deforestation is one of the main causes of fires in these regions. About 20% of the Amazon has been deforested, which means the forest is losing its ability to play its ecological role. The total area of deforestation alerts in the Brazilian Amazon between January and July 2019 increased by 278% compared to recent years.
The fire season in the affected areas takes place between August and October, peaking in September, which keeps these regions at constant risk, especially since many places have not had rain in more than six months this year.
Forest fires, which have been recorded for more than two weeks in these areas and the northern part of Paraguay, seriously affect biodiversity, threatening flagship species and habitats that allow the survival of different species of animals and plants. These sources of fire will increase the consequences of climate change, with potential droughts and floods due to lack of vegetation cover.
In addition, it has socio-economic impacts for the families of small producers and indigenous communities whose sources of income are the services provided by nature that are now at risk. Families in indigenous territories such as Monte Verde, Bolivia, are already suffering from the effects of this emergency, where mothers and nursing children have been evacuated due to latent risk due to a loss of 100,000 hectares of forests.
WWF makes an urgent call to all the countries of the region to add actions aimed at putting out fires, minimizing the causes of fires and reducing the pressures that affect these areas. Resources and strong public policies are required to avoid the conditions that have put the Amazon and other ecoregions of great importance for Latin America and the world at risk.
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