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Brazil: State of Amazonas declares state of emergency over rising number of forest fires

Brazil: State of Amazonas declares state of emergency over rising number of forest fires
Copyright NASA / MODIS / Earthview
Copyright NASA / MODIS / Earthview
By Rafael Cereceda
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The Brazilian state of Amazonas declared a state of emergency over the rising number of forest fires in the area.


The Brazilian state of Amazonas has declared a state of emergency over a rising number of fires in the region.

Graphics from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, obtained by Euronews, show how fires in the states of Rondônia and Amazonas have increased in their average activity than in the past 15 years.

Scientist Mark Parrington explained, that especially in Rondônia, the tendency is that fires increase towards the end of August.

Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service ECMWF

In Amazonas state, 1,699 forest fires were detected this year by satellites, with 80% of them happening in July. The number, however, is smaller compared to 2016 (2,221) and 2017 (1,784) and only slightly above to the 2018 number (1,695).

However, the state of Amazonas is not the most affected this season — it is only the fourth, behind Mato Grosso (8,799 fires until August 2) — a 39% increase from 2018, which was already marked by a high number of fires.

Fires are used as a normal agricultural “cleaning” technique, although it is illegal at this time of year because of the high risk of spreading. It is also one of the methods of illegal deforestation.

Using Copernicus' Sentinel 2 satellite, it was easy to trace forest fires in the area.

The Amazonas state government cannot confirm if this year’s fires come from agricultural activity or from deforestation. Official data from Brazil's space research agency won't be consolidated until 2020.

The director of the agency was recently fired for alerting about the high rates of deforestation in the Amazon forest. The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) monitoring system registered destruction of 4,699 square kilometres this year compared to 2,810 square kilometres in the previous period monitored, data on the agency's website showed.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused the agency of making up "lies" that hurt the country's trade talks.

"News like this that does not match the truth causes great damage to the image of Brazil," Bolsonaro said in a press conference last week.

As a result, Germany announced that it will suspend funds sent to Brazil to finance projects aimed at preserving the Amazon forest, Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported on Saturday.

The decision reflects "great concerns with increasing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon," the German embassy told the newspaper, adding that the cut does not affect the Amazon Fund, to which Germany is a key donor.

The state of Mato Grosso prohibits agricultural fires between July 15 and September 15. However, satellite images show various active forest fires there as well.

Satellites also show gas emissions from the fires, which are a better indicator of intensity.

Copernicus Atmposphere Monitoring Service
Aerosol emissions on August 9Copernicus Atmposphere Monitoring Service
Copernicus Atmposphere Monitoring Service / MODIS
Carbon monoxide emissionsCopernicus Atmposphere Monitoring Service / MODIS

"The increase in forest fires in the state is worrisome. INPE's deforestation warning system showed an increase in these rates. As this concentration also occurs in the southern federal areas of the state, we believe that with this integrated action we can also avoid an increase in deforestation in the state," said Eduardo Taveira from the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation.

INPE's report did not indicate any deforestation in the 42 areas protected by the state, which are the responsibility of the Amazonas government, according to an official memo.

The state government is also raising farmers' awareness and increasing their presence in at-risk areas in an attempt to curb illegal agricultural fires and discourage deforestation.

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