Compared to last year, the 2004 burning season in the Brazilian Amazon has gotten off to a raging start. Data from Brazil’s Environmental Protection Institute’s (Ibama) Amazon Forest Fire Prevention and Control Program show that the number of hot spots observed by the NOAA-12 satellite is up 19%, compared to last year.
More than half of the Amazon region fires observed (70,000 out of 116,574) were in the state of Mato Grosso. In second place is the state of Pará, with over 24,000 fires.
The areas in the two states where most of this year’s fires are located lie in the so-called Arch of Deforestation, which curves along the eastern and southeastern edges of the rainforest.
It is exactly where the greatest amount of deforestation and burning in the Amazon take place.
Amazon fires have been monitored in Brazil since 1985.
Alberto Setzer, who monitors Amazon fires, says that if data from other satellites (NOAA-16, Terra, Acqua and GOES-12) is fed into the system the total number of fires nationwide is close to one million.
Setzer says slash and burn farming is traditional in Brazil and fire is used indiscriminately throughout the country, even in industialized areas.
Setzer points out that Brazil is paradoxical in that it has a state-of-the-art monitoring system but is unable to control the burning.
Brazil, he says, can fine a vehicle that emits too much carbon dioxide, but has not managed to deal with the problem of smoke from forest fires that are deleterious to human health, attack the ozone layer and harm the environment.
Translator: Allen Bennett