The Amazon forest has been on fire for two weeks already this August. This year, about 72,843 cases of forest fires have been recorded in the country, half of which were in the Amazon. Reports by the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil indicate that incidents of forest fires have increased by 84% compared to the previous year.
The Amazon forest covers a 550 million-hectare land area, which is 20 times larger than that of the entire Philippines. It is the largest forest in the world and covers nine countries. The biggest chunk of forests are located in Brazil. It serves as habitat to 10% of flora and fauna species in the planet and supplies 20% of earth’s oxygen. Likewise, the Amazon aids in mitigating global warming and serves as ancestral lands to more than 400 tribes.
Aside from the forest fires, the Amazon is drastically deteriorating due to the entry of mining, dam, road and other projects in the area.
Brazil Pres. Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly emboldened loggers, ranchers and farmers to expand their operations and dominate the Amazon. Similarly, he cut the budget for environmental protection by $23 million. Conduct of forest inspections in the Amazon has also decreased by 70%. He also issued an executive order which transferred the authority of indigenous people’s to regulate the Amazon to the state.
His son Flavio, a senator in Brazil, has also pushed for a legislation that would relieve farmers of the obligation of maintaining 20-80% tree cover on their land.
The deterioration of forests is mainly due to the expansion of infrastructure projects such as roads and hydroelectric plants. Among the most affected areas include the state of Para which was destroyed through the construction of the BR-163 highway which connects the Amazon and the Belo Monte dam. In 2017, the Brazilian government proposed to construct more than 40 hydroelectic dams by the end of 2022. In general, the Amazon has already been deforested by 15%.