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Brazil bans land clearance blazes for 60 days amid crisis

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By IANS Updated: Aug 29, 2019 10:11 pm
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In this image released on Thursday Aug. 29, 2019, by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – Caltech, showing ECOSTRESS imagery of fires burning in the Bolivian Amazon on Aug. 23, 2019. Red areas show regions hotter than the sensor was designed to measure (approximately 220 degrees Fahrenheit, or 104 degrees Celsius). Dark wispy areas indicate thick smoke. (AP/PTI)

Brasilia, Aug. 29 (IANS): Brazil on Thursday banned setting fires to clear land for 60 days in response to a massive increase in the number of fires in the Amazon rainforest.

The decree incorporating the ban was signed by President Jair Bolsonaro, who has faced intense criticism at home and abroad for failing to protect the rainforest.

It remains unclear what impact the ban will have as according to environmentalists, the overwhelming majority of forest clearance in the Brazilian Amazon is already illegal and enforcement is lax, the BBC reported.

The Forestry Code only permits fires in specific cases and when authorized by an environmental entity. In the case of indigenous peoples, the practice is allowed in subsistence farming.

This comes as a leading Brazilian environmentalist warned on Wednesday that the “worst of the fire is yet to come”.

About 80,000 blazes have been detected in Brazil this year – more than half in the Amazon region – although on Saturday, Bolsonaro claimed the situation was “returning to normal”.

“The worst of the fire is still to come,” Tasso Azevedo, a forest engineer and environmentalist who coordinates the deforestation monitoring group MapBiomas, wrote in an article for Brazil’s O Globo newspaper.

Azevedo said many of the areas currently being consumed by flames were stretches of Amazon rainforest that had been torn down in the months of April, May and June. But areas deforested in July and August – when government monitoring systems detected a major surge in destruction – were yet to be torched.

Azevedo called for a ban on the use of fire in the Amazon region until the end of the dry season in November.

He also called for urgent action to end deforestation, which he said was largely illegal and linked to criminal groups involved in timber theft, gold mining and land grabbing.

The Brazilian Amazon lost 1,114.8 sq km – an area equivalent to Hong Kong – in the first 26 days of August, according to preliminary data from the government’s satellite monitoring agency. An area half the size of Philadelphia was reportedly lost in July, reports say.

South American countries will meet next week to discuss the crisis.

Bolsonaro has accepted Chile’s offer of four planes to fight the fires, but he has refused a G7 offer of $22 million following a spat with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The government says it has deployed 44,000 soldiers to seven states to combat the fires. That came after Bolsonaro last week said the authorities did not have the resources to fight the blazes.

 

US ready to fight Amazon fires only in cooperation with Brazil

Washington, Aug. 29 (PTI/AFP): The US is ready and willing to help Brazil fight forest fires in the Amazon, an aide to President Donald Trump said Wednesday, but only if it involves working with the Brazilian government.

On Monday the countries of the G7 — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — pledged 20 million (18 million euros) to tackle blazes engulfing parts of the world’s largest rainforest that is crucial for maintaining a stable global climate.

“The US stands ready to assist Brazil in efforts to combat fires in the Amazon,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis tweeted late Wednesday.

But the Trump administration prefers a plan that includes discussion with Brazil’s government, he said.

“We didn’t agree to a G7 initiative that failed to include consultations w/ @jairbolsonaro . The most constructive way to assist w/ Brazil’s ongoing efforts is in coordination w/ the Brazilian Gov.” Bolsonaro has repeatedly clashed with European leaders, especially France’s President Emmanuel Macron, over Brazil’s handling of the Amazon crisis.

Bolsonaro at first rejected the G7’s offer, saying on Tuesday that he would be willing to accept the aid only if Macron withdrew his “insults,” before changing his mind to say Brazil would accept foreign aid on the condition that it controlled the money.

But later on Wednesday, the South American leader fired a fresh salvo, accusing France and Germany of “buying” Brazil’s national sovereignty and throwing into doubt whether his country was still open to accepting the aid funds.

Trump, who met with Bolsonaro at the White House in March, tweeted his “full and complete support” for the Brazilian president Tuesday and praised him for his “very hard” work on the Amazon crisis.

Macron has accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about his commitments on climate change and vowed to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal involving Brazil that took decades to negotiate.

Although about 60 percent of the Amazon is located in Brazil, the vast forest also spreads over parts of either other countries or territories in South America.

6091
By IANS Updated: Aug 29, 2019 10:11:22 pm