Explained: Why Amazon fires are worrying

Headline : Explained: Why Amazon fires are worrying

Details :

In News

  • Over the last several days, the Amazon rainforest has been burning at a rate that has alarmed environmentalists and governments worldwide.

News Summary:

  • Mostly caused by farmers clearing land, the fires have thrown the spotlight on Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies and anti-environment stance.
  • NASA has released images showing the spread of fires and reported that its satellites had detected heightened fire activity in July and August.

Expanse of fire:

  • The fire started in the Amazonian rainforests and have impacted populated areas in the north, such as the states of Rondônia and Acre.
  • The Amazon fires are so large that they are visible from space.
  • The fire has blocked sunlight and enveloped the region in smoke.
  • As per the World Meteorological Organization, the smoke has travelled thousands of miles to the Atlantic coast and São Paulo.

Increasing incidence of forest fires in Amazon:

  • Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has reported that forest fires in the region have doubled since 2013.
  • This year the fires have increased by 84% compared to the same period last year.
  • This year alone there have been 72,843 fires and more than 9,500 of those have happened over the past few days.

Causes of fires:

  • President Bolsonaro, who took office in January 2019, had promised during his election campaign that his government would open up the Amazon region for business.
  • His anti-environment stance has strengthened farmers, who organised a “fire day” along a highway that runs through the heart of the rainforest.
  • Local farmers had set fire to sections of the rainforest to clear the pastures in order to work on them.



Significance of Amazon

Lungs of the Earth

  • The Amazon rainforest is a repository of rich biodiversity and produces approximately 20 per cent of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • According to a study at the University of Leeds the carbon intake by the Amazon basin matches the emissions released by nations in the basin.
  • The burning of forests, therefore, implies additional carbon emissions.
  • Further deforestation could lead to Amazon’s transformation from the world’s largest rainforest to a savanna, which would reverse the region’s ecology.

Water Cycle

  • A National Geographic report stated that the Amazon rainforest influences the water cycle not only on a regional scale, but also on a global scale.
  • The rain produced by the Amazon travels through the region and even reaches the Andes mountain range.
  • Moisture from the Atlantic falls on the rainforest and eventually evaporates back into the atmosphere.
  • It has the ability to produce at least half of the rain it receives. This cycle is a delicate balance.

Indigenous Communities:

  • It is home to many indigenous communities whose lives and homelands are under threat due to encroachment.


  • The Amazon has large reserves of gold and other minerals.
  • Since the 1960s, the Amazon has witnessed large-scale deforestation because of cattle-ranching, logging, power projects, mining and farming.
  • Agribusiness products in 2016 represented 46% of Brazil’s exports.
Section : Environment & Ecology