After days of denial of the thousands of active fires in the Amazonian forests raging across Brazil and Bolivia, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has finally taken some actions to mitigate the disaster. According to the defense ministry, the military was already directed to coordinate firefighting efforts. The military has reportedly made use of air force’s fighter planes to pour thousands of liters of water on the active hotspots that have raged on for days.
In less than a week, the fires have destroyed around a million hectares of the Amazon forests, while close to a 100 new fires have flared up. According to an earlier report by the country’s space agency, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), over 25,000 forest fires have occurred in the Amazon eco-region in August alone, with at least 2,500 of them being currently active across 10 provinces of Brazil.
The INPE also estimated that this year alone, Brazil witnessed over 78,000 forest fires, out of which over 42,000 occurred in the Amazon and nearly 22,000 in the adjoining savannas of Cerrado, which is an 84% increase since last year and the highest since 2010.
The government had taken to being in denial about the fires and had even fired the INPE head for the report on the direness of the situation in the Amazon. Bolsonaro also ignored the daytime darkness of Sao Paulo caused by the fires, despite being 2,700 km away from the forests. This prompted major outrage from across the country and beyond. On August 24, thousands of indigenous Brazilians and allies blocked all major roads in Sao Paulo, protesting the government’s denial and inaction on the fires.
International outrage piled on, especially from the G7 meeting in France which had the Amazon as part of the agenda. The G7 leaders announced that they would aid Brazil and other Latin American countries combating the fires. On Friday, French president Emmanuel Macron had threatened to veto a prospective trade deal between the European Union and the Latin American bloc Southern Common Market (Mercosur) in response to Bolsonaro’s inaction. This threat is now speculated to have put immense pressure on Brazil to act on the crisis.
Meanwhile, other Latin American governments have taken very serious account of the matter. On Friday, Evo Morales-led Bolivian government undertook a very similar strategy of firefighting by hiring supertank fighter planes to douse the fires. Morales even revised his policy towards international aid and allowed it to deal with the fires to protect the ecologically significant Amazon. Colombia’s president Ivan Duque also pitched in and stated that his government shall pursue to form conservation pacts with Peru and other nations that share the Amazon.