A fire seen from the sky in the Amazon, August 28, 2019. - Joao LAET / AFP

The number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon increased by 19.5% in June compared to the same month last year, with 2,248 households recorded, the worst total in thirteen years, according to official data released. this Wednesday. The month of June marks the start of the dry season and these figures confirm analysts' forecasts, which forecast an even more devastating year than 2019, when the resurgence of forest fires had aroused strong emotion around the world.

The site of the National Space Research Institute (INPE), which allows real-time monitoring of fire alerts identified by satellite, had never reported as many outbreaks for this month of the year since 3,519 recorded in 2007. But the worst is expected for the month of August: more than 30,000 households were recorded in 2019, three times more than in the same month in 2018.

Rising respiratory problems?

Forest fires in the Amazon are mostly criminal and directly linked to deforestation, often being caused by slash-and-burn farmers in order to cultivate or graze livestock. Deforestation in Brazil was already very high this year even before the start of the dry season, with more than 2,000 km2 deforested from January to May, 34% more than in the same period of 2019, according to the latest INPE data. .

The Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam) estimates that 9,000 km2 of forest already deforested since last year could go up in smoke by August. Environmentalists accuse the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, a notorious climatosceptic, of promoting deforestation by calling for legalizing agriculture or mining activities in protected areas.

Experts also fear that the increase in fires will cause more respiratory problems in a population already hit hard by the coronavirus. Public authorities have fewer human and financial resources to protect the environment because of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 60,000 people in Brazil.


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