Huge forest fires in the Amazon

A disaster is currently taking place in Brazil’s rainforests. Huge forest fires are spreading as a result of illegal slash-and-burn of the forest. Germany is suspending development aid.

Huge forest fires in the Amazon
dpa

How much forest is burning in the Amazon?

August forest fires in the Amazon Basin are nothing special, even though the dry season does not begin till September. This year, however, the scale of the fires is enormous. Compared with last year their number has risen by 82 per cent, the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which is monitoring the fires by satellite, reports. Some 71,500 fires were detected between January and August, and we are not yet even into September, the driest month with the most fires. To date 22,000 forest fires have been detected in August, the highest number in nine years.

Why is so much rain forest in flames?

The INPE sees a clear link between the numerous fires and the illegal clearing of the rain forests in the Amazon. The fires occur in the dry season either because specific slash-and-burn clearing spreads out of control, or because dry wood and shrubbery on the land that has been cleared catches fire.

What is Brazil’s President Bolsonaro doing?

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro regards environmental protection as a superfluous restriction of economic activity in the protected region. Despite hefty protests in Brazil itself and from the international community he intends to allow conservation areas and indigenous people’s reserves to be used for commercial purposes. It is all about the logging of timber, the mining of raw materials, and the creation of land for agricultural use where previously there was rain forest. Estimates suggest that in 2019 the level of deforestation, which by law is still illegal but which under Bolsonaro is hardly prosecuted any more, will be 45 per cent higher than in 2018. Bolsonaro rejects about 20 million US-Dollars pledged at the G7-Summit to help fight the Amazonas wildfires. A Spokesman said, the money might be better used to reforest Europe. Meanwhile Bolosnaro has promised to send in troops to fight the wildfires.

Is there resistance in Brazil?

Bolsonaro is ruthless in his treatment of critics of his approach, he does not tolerate different opinions. In early August, for example the director of the INPE in the state of São Paulo was dismissed. He had published satellite pictures showing that in June 900 square kilometres of rain forest had fallen victim to chain saws – not quite twice as much as in June 2018.

What is Germany doing?

The Federal Minister for the Environment Svenja Schulze announced two weeks ago that until Bolsonaro did something about the deforestation, project funding worth around 35 million Euros from her ministry’s International Climate Initiative would be halted for the time being. Norway, the biggest donor, has also suspended payments.

How is the German public responding?

In Germany the developments in Brazil are being followed with horror. Environmental protection and global warming play a major role in public debates. With each new day there are reports in the German media about the situation in Brazil, not just because the population is aware knows that all efforts to fight global warming are pointless if the rainforests in the Amazon continue to disappear at the same speed. In the population as a whole and in almost all political parties there is no understanding whatsoever for the Brazilian President’s stand.

deutschland.de (with material from dpa)