The Brazilian Amazon records its worst August for fires in 12 years

The Brazilian Amazon records its worst August for fires in 12 years

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The Brazilian Amazon saw its worst month of August for wildfires since 2010, up 18 percent from a year earlier, according to official data released Thursday.

Brazil’s space agency INPE said its satellites registered 33,116 fires in the rainforest, a key buffer against global warming, in August this year, compared with 28,060 in the same month last year.

At least 3,358 fires were recorded on August 22 alone, the highest number for a 24-hour period since September 2007, it said.

The number was almost three times higher than the so-called “Day of the Fire” – August 10, 2019 – when farmers embarked on a coordinated plan to burn vast amounts of felled rainforest in northern Para state.

Fires then sent thick, gray smoke to Sao Paulo, some 2,500 kilometers away, and sparked a global outcry over the burning of one of the earth’s most vital resources.

Between January and August, the INPE recorded 46,022 fires – a 16 percent increase from the same period in 2021.

The Amazon had not burned in a month of August – usually the worst for fires in Brazil’s dry season – since 2010, when 45,018 were recorded.

All of the worst August numbers since — 30,900 fires in 2019, 29,307 in 2020, 28,060 in 2021 and 33,116 in 2022 — came during the four-year tenure of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking re-election next month.

“This uncontrolled increase in fires over the past four years is closely related to the increase in deforestation,” said Mariana Napolitano of WWF Brazil.

“The Amazon is a humid rainforest and unlike other biomes, fires do not occur spontaneously. Fires are always associated with human action,” she added.

Fires are mainly caused by farmers illegally clearing land by burning crops, experts say.

Deforestation in Brazil is also at an all-time high: around 3,988 km2 were lost in the first half of 2022, a record since INPE’s Deter satellite monitoring system began collecting data in 2016.

Bolsonaro, an agribusiness ally, is facing international criticism over a wave of destruction of the Amazon under his watch.

But he rejects the rebuke.

“None of those who attack us have the right. If they wanted to call a pretty forest their own, they should have kept those in their lands,” he wrote on Twitter last month.

“The Amazon belongs to the Brazilians and always will,” Bolsonaro said.

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