President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree to ban setting fires to clear land that will have a duration of 60 days in response to the high number of fires blazing through the Amazon rainforest, reported BBC.
The ban has been met with mixed responses, with some believing that it will have zero effect on the fires since technically, the majority of forest clearance in the Brazilian Amazon is already illegal; however, enforcement is lax and would need to be improved if the ban were to have any kind of positive outcome. Additionally, environmentalists have pointed to the president and the policies enacted by his administration as the reason why the Amazon has seen more than 80,000 fires break out just in this year so far.
The decree to ban clearing land was in response to allegations that some of the fires blazing in the forest have been triggered by illegal clearing. The ban addresses this issue across the entire country.
There are three exceptions included in the ban: fires are allowed to be set to clear land when it is in the best interest of plant health and authorized by environmental authorities, when it is used as a tool to prevent wildfires, and when it is part of traditional agricultural practices carried out by indigenous populations.
In addition to signing the decree, Brazil is taking further measures to stop the fires. Bolsonaro accepted an offer from Chile to fly four planes over the fires to help put them out, although he has refused a G7 offer of $22 million following a disagreement with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The government has also sent a total of 44,000 soldiers to seven states to fight the fires on the ground. Additionally, it has been announced that federal police officers would be sent to the areas impacted by fires to help the individual states enforce illegal deforestation.
Tasso Azevedo, who runs the deforestation monitoring group Mapbiomas, spoke out about the fires, accusing criminal groups of the deforestation efforts that have led to the increase in wildfire outbreaks. He said these groups are involved in timber theft, gold mining, and land grabbing, and made a call to ban deforestation until the dry season ends in November, while also defending an end to deforestation in the Amazon in general.
“What we are experiencing is a real crisis, which can turn into a tragedy that will feature fires much larger than the current ones if not stopped immediately.”