Published On: Wed, Aug 21st, 2019

Amazon fires reaction: Bolsonaro savaged over illegal fires – President urged to ACT NOW | World | News

The Amazon rainforest, which spans 5.5 million km2, has been devastated by a record number of raging wildfires this year. More than 73,000 have been recorded, a surge of 83 percent over the same period in 2018, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The unprecedented increase in fires has been blamed on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the newly elected head of state has faced mounting criticism over his environmental rhetoric.

President Bolsonaro took office on January 1 and prioritised developing the Amazonian forest for farming and mining, ignoring international concern over increased deforestation.

The Brazilian President has also brushed off claims made by INPE and suggested they had “made up” the figures.

The space agency said the large number of wildfires could not be attributed to the dry season or natural phenomena alone.

Researcher Alberto Setzer said: “There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average.

“The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

But Mr Bolsonaro said it was the time of the year of the “queimada” or burn, when farmers use fire to clear land.

He has even said that non-governmental organisations could be burning down the Amazon rainforest to bring shame on the government after he cut their funding.

Mr Bolsonaro claimed that “everything indicates” that NGOs are going to the Amazon to “set fire” to the forest.

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“The Amazon rainforest’s burning for about three weeks and nothing’s being done.”

Another said: “Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro believes burning the Amazonian Rainforest will positively impact Brazil’s economy.

“Bolsonaro also believes there is no reason to maintain or keep the natural beauty of the rainforest.”

Environmental activists have pointed to a recent increase in deforestation as the cause of the fires.

Richardo Mello of WWF’s Amazon Program said: “What we are seeing is a consequence of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures.”

INPE published preliminary data last month showing deforestation in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest surged more than 88 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago.

The data saw the second consecutive month of rising forest destruction under the President.

In response, Mr Bolsonaro saved the director of INPE, and said the figures were inaccurate and smeared Brazil’s reputation abroad.

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