Bolivia NGO warns of increase in forest fires

LA PAZ: Environmentalists in Bolivia warned on Thursday (Apr 30) of a marked increase in forest fires this year that threaten a repeat of the environmental disaster that ravaged much of the Amazon in 2019.

Bolivia registered 15,354 forest fires in the first four months of the year – a 35 per cent increase on the same period last year, the Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN) said.

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FAN said it had monitored information from NASA satellites to record fires between January and Apr 21.

The deliberate burning is mainly to expand agricultural land, the NGO said.

The fires "are in agricultural areas, meaning that what is being detected corresponds to burning areas for agricultural use," FAN activist Carlos Pinto.

However, the NGO said "current climatic conditions are favorable to avoid large scale fires," as dry season was still months away.

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Wildfires in 2019 destroyed millions of hectares of Bolivia's Amazon region, which at the same time destroyed vast areas of the rainforest in neighboring Brazil, drawing global condemnation and sparking debate over how best to protect the Amazon from a drive by Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro to expand agricultural land.

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