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Brazil sends army to tackle horrifying Amazon forest fires

Brazil sends army to tackle horrifying Amazon forest fires
August 24, 2019

BRAZILIA (92 NEWS) - After Amazon forests have been getting out of control for the last three weeks or so, Brazil's president has finally ordered the armed forces to help fight more than 2,500 fires.

A decree issued by President Jair Bolsonaro authorises the deployment of soldiers in nature reserves, indigenous lands and border areas in the region. The announcement comes after intense pressure from European leaders. France and Ireland say they will not ratify a huge trade deal with South American nations unless Brazil does more to tackle blazes in the Amazon. There are reports that huge blaze has so far burned 640 million acres of forests that contribute 20 per cent oxygen to the living souls of the world. Finland's finance minister has also called on the EU to consider banning Brazilian beef imports. Finland is currently president of the Council of the EU - a role which is rotated among member states every six months.
A protester and a police officer outside the Brazilian embassy in London
Image captionProtesters outside the Brazilian embassy in London
Environmental groups have called for protests in cities across Brazil on Friday to demand action to combat the fires. Hundreds of protesters also gathered outside the Brazilian embassies around the world, including in London, Berlin, Mumbai and Paris. "We can't stand around waiting for the sky to turn black all the way here in London too," protester Laura Villares House, 33, told BBC Brasil.

Why does the Amazon matter?

The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. It is known as the "lungs of the world" and is home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted on Thursday: "In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected."
How bad are the fires and who is responsible for them?
Satellite data published by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) has shown an increase of 85% this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region. Mr Bolsonaro has brushed off the latest data, arguing that it was the season of the "queimada", when farmers burn land to clear it before planting. However, Inpe has noted that the number of fires is not in line with those normally reported during the dry season. Wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil but they are also deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching.
Map showing active fires in the Brazilian Amazon
Conservationists say Mr Bolsonaro has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land. During his campaign, he pledged to limit fines for damaging the rainforest and to weaken the influence of the environmental agency. Mr Bolsonaro has suggested that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) started the fires, but admitted he had no evidence for this claim. In comments on Thursday, he acknowledged that farmers might be involved in setting fires in the region, according to Reuters news agency. US space agency Nasa, meanwhile, has said that overall fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average compared to the past 15 years. ADDITIONAL SOURCE: BBC NEWS