The Amazon rainforest has seen its worst fire in a decade, after spotting 10,316 fires in the last 10 days. This is a 17 percent rise compared to 2019.
Brazilian government figures by Greenpeace showed fires increasing by 81% in federal reserves compared with the same period last year. Coming a year after soaring Amazon fires caused an international crisis, the new figures raised fears this year’s fire season could be even worse than last year’s.
The numbers are likely to add to the rising sense of alarm among business leaders and investors over the negative impact caused by the ongoing destruction of Brazil’s Amazon forest.
In July the government banned fires for 120 days in the Amazon and Pantanal regions, where fires are also raging. On Tuesday Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, falsely claimed reports of rising numbers of Amazon fires were “a lie”.
His administration has been unable to control rising fires and deforestation despite an expensive army operation launched in May. Called Operation Green Brasil 2 and headed by vice-president General Hamilton Mourão, it involves thousands of soldiers, and according to the defence ministry has so far seized 28,100 cubic metres of wood and handed out £575,000 worth of fines.
Fires in July were 28% up on a year ago, according to Brazil’s Space Research Institute (INPE), in charge of satellite monitoring. Deforestation from August 2019 to July 2020 is up 34%. And nobody has been charged over last year’s coordinated “Fire Day”, when fires tripled in the state of Pará alone on 10-11 August, especially around the Novo Progresso area, where 638 fires were spotted in the first 10 days of August.
Fires in the Amazon dry season are mainly caused by people either clearing land, or burning felled trees or forest from which valuable woods have already been removed.
Much of that land becomes cattle pasture, responsible for 80% of deforestation in all Amazon countries. Greenpeace analysis showed that among the Amazon municipalities worst-hit by fires in the first 10 days of August were some of the region’s most important cattle producing areas.