Brazil’s Amazon basin fires keep surging

A fire burns a tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Brazil August 31, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 01 September 2019

Brazil’s Amazon basin fires keep surging

  • Experts note that 2019 has been wetter than previous years
  • They also stress that there are no natural fires in the Amazon

SAO PAULO: The number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon basin is still on the rise, even though the government has banned burning, officials said Saturday.
In the first 48 hours since the ban was issued, satellite data from the National Space Research Institute (INPE) showed 3,859 new outbreaks of fire, of which some 2,000 were concentrated in the Amazon region.
From January to the end of August, 51.9 percent of Brazil’s recorded 88,816 fires were in the rainforest, according to the INPE, a number experts call a dramatic, direct consequence of farmers’ widespread deforestation.
Brazil’s Amazon region is in its dry season, but experts note that 2019 has been wetter than previous years — they also stress that there are no natural fires in the Amazon.
The no-burn decree may have been too little too late, and more of a political than practical gesture, some analysts say.
Deforestation has surged this year as agencies tasked with monitoring illegal activities were weakened by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.
Often called the Trump of the Tropics, Bolsonaro has questioned climate change, and argues farmers sometimes need the land for their livelihood.
Since the weekend thousands of troops, firefighters, and aircraft have been deployed, and the defense ministry says the fires are under control.
Bolsonaro claimed in a live Facebook broadcast Thursday “this year’s fires are below the average of recent years.”
Deforestation for farming is one of the most serious threats to the rainforest and is a problem present in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
Farmers Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia commonly set fires in the dry season to clear the undergrowth in deforested areas. However, this often leads to uncontrolled burning, which takes a greater toll on the rainforest.
Much to environmentalists’ chagrin, Bolivia’s government recently authorized farmers to burn 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) instead of the usual five hectares (12 acres) — which is believed to have contributed to thousands of wildfires that razed 1.2 million hectares of grassland and forest since May.
Illegal crops also reduce the rainforest, such as Colombian coca cultivation, which covers roughly 170,000 hectares, according to UN data.
Significant damage is also done by illegal mining operations, which is compounded by the use of chemicals such as mercury — particularly in gold mining — which contaminates soil and streams.


Bangladesh court indicts Islamist militants for 2015 killing

Updated 13 October 2019

Bangladesh court indicts Islamist militants for 2015 killing

  • In October 2015, suspected militants hacked Faisal Abedin Deepan of the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house

DHAKA: A court in Bangladesh’s capital has indicted eight suspected Islamist militants tied to a banned group over the 2015 killing of a man who published books on secularism and atheism.
Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal Judge Majibur Rahman read out the charges to six of the suspects on Sunday while they pleaded not guilty. Another two, including a sacked military official, remained fugitives, but the judge issued arrest warrants for them. Police say they belong to the domestic militant outfit Ansar al Islam.
In October 2015, suspected militants hacked Faisal Abedin Deepan of the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house. He was a publisher of Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death in February 2015.
Several other atheists and bloggers were killed by suspected militants in 2015.