The Amazon rainforest in Brazil is experiencing record fires, with the inferno persisting over the last 16 days.
Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, a federal agency monitoring deforestation and wildfires, said the country has seen a record number of wildfires this year, counting 74,155 as of Tuesday, an increase of 84 percent increase since the ascension to power of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
The fires were detected by satellite imagery in the Brazilian states of Estados de Acre, Rondonia, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso del Sur as well as the country’s shared border with Bolivia and Paraguay.
The Amazon, often referred to as the “lungs of the planet,” is one of the world’s most critical carbon stores to prevent the intensification of climate change.
Bolsonaro, an open critic of environmentalists, has been accused by conservation groups of encouraging farmers and loggers to level the rainforest, a possible explanation for increased fires.
On Wednesday, Bolsonaro claimed without evidence that environmental groups had intentionally started the fires, which have created so much smoke it blacked out the sky of São Paulo.
"Maybe — I am not affirming it — these (ONG people) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil," Bolsonaro said in a video posted on his Facebook account. "This is the war we are facing."
When asked by reporters if he had evidence, the president did not provide any.
In recent weeks, Bolsonaro fired the head of Brazil’s space research agency over a dispute regarding the release of actual deforestation data. Norway and Germany suspended their climate funding to Brazil in response to Bolsonaro’s extreme environmental policies.
On social media, people have criticised lack of media coverage about the fires, with activists seeking to raise awareness of the fires using the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia.
There was worldwide outcry when the Notre Dame cathedral was on fire,” the World Wildlife Fund in the United Kingdom posted on its Twitter account. “Why is there not the same level of outrage for the fires destroying the #AmazonRainforest?”