Burned area in the Pantanal exceeds 2 million and 400 thousand acres
By October 2019, nearly 8,000 fires were reported in the largest wetland on the planet
By Renata Peña
In 2019, the fire in the Pantanal reached unprecedented proportions. According to the WWF-Brazil analysis, by October 2019, there was a 97% increase in the number of hot spots compared to the average of the last 10 years: almost 8,000 fires were reported.
The scenario is one of devastation. This year's burning forms a line that goes beyond 50 km from the BR-262 highway, something never seen before by the old Pantanal inhabitants, according to reports to the combat teams on the spot. The fire has advanced rapidly due to the combination of high temperatures and high winds, ideal conditions for propagation, according to the Fire Department and the state government of Mato Grosso do Sul (MS).
A WWF study indicates that the total area burned exceeds two million and 400 thousand acres. According to the analysis, prepared with data from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), fire outbreaks are located in areas near cities, highways and private properties. There is a low occurrence of heat sources in indigenous lands and none in protected areas, which demonstrates the effectiveness of these conservation mechanisms.
The MS state government claims that the burnings, beyond the stretch of highway, occur in areas into the woods that are difficult to reach. The flames destroy parts of the Pantanal that are in the cities of Corumbá, Miranda, and Aquidauana. These are private areas, starting from the km 600 of BR-262, at both ends of the highway, arriving near Porto Morrinho, which is where the bridge over the Paraguay River is located. The three cities have been in an emergency since September because of the fires. The fire is also in the Estrada Parque area, where there are several livestock and tourism farms. Most of them are fully loaded with tourists due to the proximity of the fishing season closure in the Pantanal rivers. There are reports of people stranded, unable to move.
The Pantanal and fire
The Pantanal is an ecosystem adapted to fire, with thick barks and germination mechanisms adapted to fire. The occurrence of drought fires is of anthropogenic origin (man-made in an organized – usually provided by law – or disorganized manner) and is directly related to deforestation and pasture reform.
The Fire Department of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul officially said last week that it is not yet possible to claim that the fires were criminal because there has not yet been any forensics, but there is no doubt that they were man-made (by negligence or recklessness).
Why fires increased in 2019
According to WWF, the increased occurrence of fires may be linked to the shrinking budget of environmental control agencies and the delay in hiring fire brigades. In the case of Brazil, the Brazilian budget for fire brigades was reduced by 34%. Another important factor is the government's rhetoric that environmental control and the preservation of biodiversity are barriers to development.
The occurrence of fires in the drought is directly related to deforestation and pasture reform.
Difference between hot spots, fire spots and burning spots?
Hot Spots: Any temperature above 47ºC. A hot spot is not necessarily a fire spot. Burning: Burning is an ancient agropastoral or forestry practice that uses fire in a controlled manner to make agriculture viable or reform pastures. The burning must be done under certain environmental conditions that allow the fire to remain confined to the area that will be used for agriculture or livestock. Forest fire: It is the uncontrolled fire that strikes any form of vegetation, can be either man-made (intentional or negligent), or by a natural cause, such as the sun's rays.