Brazil has seen a devastating increase in the number of fires in the Amazon region in July 2020, compared to July last year.
The country’s National Space Agency used satellite images to count a total 6,803 fires, which is up 28% from the previous year’s recording of 5,318.
It comes ahead of the traditional ‘fire season’ that begins this month, causing concerns the country could be about to see a repeat surge in the number of August fires, following on from the shocking 30,900 fires recorded in August 2019.
More than 1,000 of the July fires were recorded on July 30, which is the highest number for a single day in July since 2005.
Unsurprisingly, these figures have sparked huge concerns among environmental scientists, with Ane Alencar, science director at the country’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute, describing it as ‘a terrible sign.’
‘We can expect that August will already be a difficult month and September will be worse yet,’ he said, reports.
President Jair Bolsonaro had previously encouraged mining and other agricultural activities within the Amazon, however his government has been forced to place a ban on starting fires of any kind within the region, following pressure from international investors.
International environmental advocates have laid the blame at right-wing Bolsonaro’s door, after he encouraged loggers, miners and land speculators to destroy parts of the forest in favour of economic development. However, he says his plans will serve as way of lifting the region out of severe poverty.
As well as the increased number of fires, there are also concerns given that this year’s dry season will be even more prone to fires than last year.
Carlos Rittl, senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany, told :
The tendency is that this will be a more dry year than 2019 and this makes it easier for the fire to spread.
Many of the fires came after the fire ban came into effect on July 15, indicating it is not being entirely adhered to, according to Matt Finer who leads the Amazon Conservation organisation.
Last year, deforestation reached an 11 year high and has increased by a worrying 25% more in the first quarter of 2020 alone.