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60-day ban on burning in Brazil following global outcry over Amazon fires

However, activists have doused hopes that the ban would work.

brazil-manicore-amazon-fire Photo taken on 26 August shows a fire consuming trees in Manicore, the state of Amazonas, Brazil Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

A 60-DAY BAN on burning in Brazil has taken effect following a global outcry over fires raging in the Amazon.

The decree issued by President Jair Bolsonaro comes after escalating international pressure over the worst fires in the Amazon in years, which have ignited a diplomatic spat between Brazil and Europe.

However, activists have doused hopes that the ban would work.

“The people who burn without a license are not going to obey,” said Rodrigo Junqueira of the Socio-Environmental Institute. 

Three people were arrested yesterday for burning more than 5,000 hectares in a conservation area in Para state. 

Thousands of troops and firefighters have been deployed since the weekend to combat the fires.

Two C-130 Hercules and other aircraft have also been dumping water over affected areas in the country’s north.

More than 1,600 new fires were ignited between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, taking this year’s total to almost 85,000 – the highest number since 2010, official data shows.

Around half of them are in the vast Amazon basin.

Bolsonaro, however, claimed in a live broadcast on Facebook that “this year’s fires are below the average of recent years”.

brazil-amazon-fires Fire consumes an area in Altamira, Brazil Source: Leo Correa via PA Images

UN chief Antonio Guterres yesterday mooted a meeting of key countries to drum up support to tackle the fires.

“We are strongly appealing for the mobilisation of resources and we have been in contact with countries to see whether, during the high-level session of the General Assembly, there could be a meeting devoted to the mobilisation of support to the Amazon,” Guterres told reporters.

Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was not aware of the proposal. 

It urged “foreign authorities” to learn more about the country’s environmental policies, the situation in the Amazon and measures taken to combat the fires “before proposing new initiatives”.

Ban ‘not useful’

International offers of help for combating the fires is a hot-button issue in Brazil, with Bolsonaro and others insisting on the country’s sovereign rights over the Amazon.

Bolsonaro on Wednesday accused France and Germany of “buying” Brazil’s sovereignty after the G7 offered $20 million in Amazon fire aid.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao – widely considered a moderate voice in Bolsonaro’s government – also weighed in publicly for the first time on Wednesday, insisting in an opinion piece that “our Amazon will continue to be Brazilian”.

The governors of several states in the Amazon told Bolsonaro in a meeting on Tuesday that international help was needed.

Their plea came after Norway and Germany halted around $70 million in Amazon protection subsidies earlier this month. 

The United States is ready to help Brazil fight forest fires in the Amazon, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, criticising the G7 for failing to consult Bolsonaro over its initiative.

nyc-save-the-amazon-rally New Yorkers gathered at Bryant Park on 24 August for a rally in Defense of the Amazon Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Doubt

Even as Bolsonaro’s decree was published, there were already doubts over how Brazil would enforce the two-month ban on burning in the remote region where deforestation has surged this year as agencies tasked with monitoring illegal activities were weakened.

Environmental group WWF said Brazil already had laws and tools to detect illegal deforestation and burning, but it lacked enforcement.

“The certainty of impunity is the great spark that starts the fires,” WWF said. 

Experts say increased land clearing during the months-long dry season to make way for crops or grazing has aggravated the recurring problem of fires.

The defense ministry says the fires are under control and that the number of blazes is falling, helped by recent rain in the affected areas.

Includes reporting by - © AFP 2019

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