AMAZON FOREST FIRES : Why are the “Lungs of the Planet” under stress.

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Record fires are raging in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, with more than 2,500 fires currently burning. They are collectively emitting huge amounts of carbon, with smoke plumes visible thousands of kilometers away.  Although it happens every year, but the peak day this month was 700% higher than the average for the same date over the past 15 years and that in the worst-affected Brazilian state of Amazonas, The amount of ash and other particulates in August has hit the highest level since 2010 in other states. According to the Brazil’s Space Agency, fires in Brazil is increased by 85% in 2019, with more than half in the Amazon region. This all of a sudden increase is likely to be caused by land degradation : land clearing and farming reduces the availability of water, warms the soil and intensifies drought, combining to make fires more frequent and more fierce.

Why there has been fires raging in the AMAZON?

According to the experts, these fires are a result of the illegal forest clearing to create land for farming. Deliberately the fires are set which easily spread in dry season. Since 1970s, the desire for new land for cattle farming has been the major driver of deforestation in the Amazon forests. It is to be noted that farmers may not need to clear new land to graze cattle. According to a research conducted, it is found that there are significant number of currently degraded and unproductive pastures that could offer new opportunities for livestock. Also, new technological developments also offer the possibility by which pressure on natural resources can be reduced without changing the results- this is the transformation of extensive cattle ranches into more compact and productive farms Why we must be worried? It is worth mentioning that the Amazon provides the Earth with 20% of fresh oxygen every year thus claiming the title of ‘Lungs of the Planet’. The devastating biodiversity loss not only affect Brazil but also whole of world. The loss of these Amazonian vegetation directly affects the rain across the South America and other regions of the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund(WWF), AMAZON – the world’s largest rainforest-spans 8 countries and covers 40% of South America- nearly the size of 2/3rd of the US. It is home to more than 30 million people  and to large numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, most of them fairly unique to the region. It is to be noted that, a new plant or animal species is discovered there every second day in Amazon.

We can say that the planet is losing an very critical carbon sink, and the fires are directly injecting carbon into the atmosphere which is not good for the health of planet, especially at a time when our planet is struggling to control the global warming. If we can’t stop deforestation in the Amazon, and the associated fires, it raises questions about our ability to reach the Paris Agreement to slow climate change. If the Brazilian government’s ambitious targets to stop illegal deforestation and restore 4.8 million hectares of Amazonian degraded land by 2030 are not carefully addressed now, then it may not be possible to effectively control the climate change.


Does Politics played any role?

Yes!! The rate at which Brazil has lost the Amazonian forest has expanded by more than 60% since 2014 and is basically the outcome of the economic crises and the dismantling of the Brazilian environmental regulation and ministerial authority since the 2018 Presidential election in which Jair Bolsonaro had an upper hand.  The political agenda of Jair Bolsonaro which includes controversial programs that critics claim will threaten both environment and the human rights. One of his very first acts as the President was to pass ministerial reforms that greatly weakened the Environmental Ministry of Brazil. It was found that the regulations and the programs that were meant for the conservation and traditional communities’ rights have been threatened by economic lobbying.  Over the last months, Government of Brazil had announced the reduction and extinction of the environmental agencies and commissions, including the one responsible for tackling the problem of deforestation and fires.

What are the effects on climate change?

We know that forests contain carbon, which is stored in the trees and vegetation and that to the tune of 459 tonnes per hectare in the Amazon. When a tree is cut, the carbon inside will re-enter the atmosphere years later, at the end of its use cycle when it decomposes. When the vegetation is burned, as is happening now, the carbon immediately enters the atmosphere. For the past few months, a hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon has escaped into the environment thus posing a considerable effect to the health of the planet.

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