Amazon rainforest fires rose 28% in July, worrying experts

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BRASILIA, BRAZIL – Fires in the Brazilian Amazon increased 28% in July compared to a year ago, a state agency reported on Saturday. The National Space Research Institute, responsible for monitoring Brazil, said it recorded 6,803 fires in the Amazon rainforest last month, up from 5,318 in the same month of 2019.

Environmentalists have expressed concern over the rise, as August traditionally marks the start of the region’s fire season. They fear that Brazil will repeat the upsurge in fires last August, when 30,900 fires were recorded by the institute.

The sharp rise in fires comes amid national and international concerns over President Jair Bolsonaro’s calls to clear land in the Brazilian Amazon to boost economic development.

Responding to these concerns, on July 16, the government banned burning in the Pantanal wetlands and the Amazon rainforest for four months. Bolsonaro also issued an order in May for the military to coordinate environmental actions in the Amazon.

But experts said figures from the fires indicate the government’s response is not effective and also point to the possibility that this year’s dry season is even more prone to fires than last year.

Carlos Nobre, a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Sao Paulo State University, said the deforestation index also remained high this year through July, compared to the past two years.

“We can conclude, with data up to the end of July, that the effectiveness of government actions to reduce fires and deforestation is low,” he said.

Carlos Rittl, senior researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany, also told The Associated Press that the trends in the Amazon are worrying.

“The trend is that it will be a drier year than 2019 and that makes it easier for the fire to spread,” he said.

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