Sunday, June 20, 2021

Amazon fires

Series of fire incidents in Amazon rainforests, perhaps the largest in the world of its kind, destroying vast tracts of dense vegetation is a matter of serious concern for the rest of the planet. At least 9,500 fire incidents reported as burning in the main basin since August 15 last has been taken notice of by the developed countries. It is also unfortunate that at least 76,000 fire incidents have ravaged the rainforests in 2019 while more than 10,000 have been started in the past few weeks. Most these fires have been triggered mainly by the loggers, farmers seeking conversion of forest land into agricultural fields, industrial use and mining purposes. This phenomenon has been going for the past many years during the summer months particularly. The planned deforestation appears to have crossed the tipping point this year threatening not only the ecology but also threatening the rich flora and fauna in the rainforests. The rainforests are also host to over a million of the uncontacted tribal population, who depend on the forest resources for their survival. Despite laws enacted to protect inhabitants in the forests, indiscriminate logging and clearance of the forests has been going on for conversion of the land for other uses. Sadly, there has been an increase of at least 80% in the number of recorded fires compared to the same period in 2018, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This week, images of darkening skies above Sao Paulo, more than 2,700 km away from the fires, went viral. The number and intensity of the fire incidents are closely linked to the rate of deforestation. Some reports estimate that in July 2019, the Amazon shrunk by 1,345 sq km, up 39% from the same month last year, and a historical record. The leaping flames of the fires are not confined just to Brazil either. In neighbouring Bolivia, deadly blazes are devastating forests and farmlands, so much so, that its President, Evo Morales, has put his re-election campaign on hold over the weekend, and, unlike his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, was quick to welcome foreign aid to help fight the fires and bring them under control. Apart from the crisis that has gripped Brazil due to large number of fire incidents, there are different political undertones from the ruling politicians. Jair Bolsonaro’s critics say that his economic and environmental policies have virtually set the stage for intensifying degradation of the Amazon’s rich biodiversity. They argue that since he came to power this year, he has chipped away at the protections that the rainforest enjoyed, including by weakening the environment ministry when he made Ricardo Salles, found guilty of administrative improprieties for altering a map to benefit mining companies, the Environment Minister, by driving away Norway and Germany, principal donors who have backed protections for the Amazon. By sacking the head INPE over absurd allegations that he was disclosing how rapidly Amazon deforestation was happening and by attacking both environmental charities, alleging without proof that they started fires to serve certain foreign interests, and indigenous Amazon dwellers. Under intense global pressure, including from the ongoing G-7 meetings of world leaders, Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing climate-change sceptic, appears to have relented to an extent, and has authorised 44,000 military troops to help with the firefighting efforts. Going by the deepening of the crisis caused by massive blaze, such authorization to army may not help to a large extent. Even if they succeed, and the Jair Bolsonaro administration ultimately bends to global outrage over the destruction of a critical global ecosystem, the discernible shift in Brazilian public institutions responsible for guarding the future of the Amazon rainforest is a worrying sign of worse things to come. In fact, this is a warning sign for the developed countries to choose between the market economy and corporate world and conservation of the bio-diversity, which can serve as the lungs for the world. Massive destruction of the forests can lead to distinction of human population in the Latin American sub-continent.