Bolivia’s Amazon Fire Hotspots Reduced by 85%

Evo Morales, on Tuesday, visiting the affected communities in the Chiquitania | Photo: ABI

“I call on young environmentalists, farmers and social organizations to implement a recovery plan for locals in the affected areas. #UnityinAdversity”

Bolivia’s defense minister Javier Zavaleta announced on Wednesday afternoon, that the hotspots for the Amazon fires in Bolivia have been reduced by 85% in the past eight days. Bolivia’s government has mobilized a huge air operation, involving helicopters, planes and the ‘Supertanker’ to combat the fires that have raged in the country.

“More than 85 percent of the hotspots have been extinguished in almost eight days of operations, therefore, the fire is definitely receding, and we are already attacking specific places from air and land. So we hope the fire will continue receding” said Zavaleta, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday.

He continued, “The large expenses [of operations] are being covered by the Bolivian state with our budget and our own resources, but we still welcome any help (…), now that the fire is in retreat, we have no reason to return to the height of what the fire was. We used to have more than 8,000 fire hotspots we are now at less than 1,000 hotspots”

Nevertheless, challenges remain. Zavaleta also said that fire had been detected near San Ignacio in the Chiquitania area and that the President will be visiting the area shortly to help coordinate operations.

In response to the news. President Evo Morales called for a new phase of operations to begin, asking for others to work with the government to help recover what has been lost. He said “I call on young environmentalists, farmers and social organizations to implement a recovery plan for locals in the affected areas. #UnityinAdversity”

One part of the recovery plan is the announcement on Tuesday evening that buying and selling land in the affected areas will be banned, so as to stop agro-capitalists profiteering from burnt areas, to allow for regeneration of the forest.

The UN has praised Bolivia’s leftist government for the scale of the operations they have mobilized to combat the fires. This includes contracting the world’s largest air tanker, the Boeing 747 ‘Supertanker’ too led efforts to extinguish the fires. Along with sending troops, firefighters and veterinarians to reinforce operations.

Meanwhile, far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been slammed for inaction in the face of the devastating fires. 

 

Bolivia Bans Profiteering in Lands Affected by Amazon Fires

  • Evo Morales speaking to media after having helped frontline staff combat the fires in the Chiquitania.

    Evo Morales speaking to media after having helped frontline staff combat the fires in the Chiquitania. | Photo: Twitter: @telesurenglish

“I want to tell you that I have decided to declare an ‘ecological pause’, which means that in areas affected by the fires, land sales are prohibited"

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has announced that the sale of land will be banned in regions affected by the Amazon fires, in order to stop ranchers and agro-capitalists from profiting off the fires once they recede, and so that those areas can be reforested rather than exploited. Morales also announced that fires in one forest area of Bolivia’s Amazon region have been entirely extinguished thanks to the work of the ‘Supertanker’. 

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UN Recognizes Bolivia's Efforts In Combating Amazon Fires

On Tuesday night, after meeting with the country’s ‘Emergency Cabinet’ based in Robore, and with those coordinating firefighting efforts. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales declared that any sale or purchase of lands affected by the fires is now banned, and that those areas will become part of an integrated ecological plan to recover what was lost. 

Morales said “I want to tell you that I have decided to declare an ‘ecological pause’, which means that in areas affected by the fires, land sales are prohibited; on top of that, we’re planning how to prepare for the post-fire era, because we are going to overcome this”

There are hopes that the measure will mean that there will be fewer incentives for those who burn areas of the Amazon to clear forests for ranching and other activities. A practice that is extremely common in Brazil, and responsible for huge deforestation across the Amazon region. The move will also mean that reforestation efforts can begin once the fire is extinguished, as the land will not be exploited by agro-capitalist interests. 

Fires in One Forest Now Extinguished 

As Morales announced the ‘ecological pause’, the President also confirmed that fires in the large Otuquis forest zone in the Amazonian ‘German Busch’ province have been extinguished due to operations led by the ‘Supertanker’, contracted by the Bolivian government to combat the fires. 

The extinguishing of fires in Otuquis will be seen as an important victory against the fires. It follows news that the ‘Supertanker’ had managed to halt the advance of the fire spreading to the “Tucavaca” ecological reserve, which consists of 262.305 hectares and which the fire in the Chiquitania area was expected to reach.

During operations in the past few days, 1,892,330 liters of water have been dropped on affected areas, of which the ‘Supertanker’ discharged 979,000 liters. In addition, five helicopters dropped 873,720 liters, and contracted aircraft, 39,610 liters.  

The UN has praised the efforts of Bolivia’s leftist government in combating the fires, due to the large forces mobilized and Morales’ calls for a region wide response. Whereas Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has done little, rejecting an offer from the G7 to help fund firefighting efforts, and sharing a fake image of what his government is supposedly doing to combat the fires.  

 

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Bolivia Orders World's Largest Air Tanker to Combat Amazon Fires

  • The Boeing 747 supertanker in action.

    The Boeing 747 supertanker in action. | Photo: EFE

“We are no longer forced to submit to ‘international aid’...we can respond ourselves immediately’

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced on Wednesday that Bolivia had contracted a Boeing 747 ‘Supertanker’ to help extinguish huge forest fires in the Amazon have that spilled over from Brazil. By Wednesday evening, the government confirmed that the tanker is arriving in the country and will be operational on Friday. 

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The ‘Supertanker’ can carry more water than any other aircraft in the world, capable of flying with 115, 000 liters, equivalent to a 100 regular air tankers. Prior to the tanker's arrival, the military will fly planes over the region to assess where exactly the tanker should focus. 

There will also be three new helicopters, working with the three already in operation, working to extinguish the fires. Other measures include the creation of an ‘emergency cabinet’ and the dispatch of an extra 500 troops on Thursday morning, as reinforcement for the firefighters on the ground. There will also be around 10 light aircraft, putting out fires by fumigation.

On the first day of the fires spreading to Bolivia, President Evo Morales visited the areas and brought two helicopters to evacuate affected communities, along with large shipments of emergency food aid. 

The new measures by the government come amid calls by right-wing opposition candidate Carlos Mesa to allow foreign aid to help put out the fires. 

Nevertheless, Bolivia’s government has long rejected calls for outside intervention for natural disasters, arguing that Bolivia’s economy has developed enough to provide sufficient resources to cope, and must deal with issues internally to protect sovereignty. Speaking earlier in the year when flash floods hit the Department of Beni, Vicepresident Alvaro Garcia Linera said “Bolivia has the resources...the era of begging [to outsiders] has passed, leave that to Carlos Mesa”.

Some have pointed to how international ‘emergency aid’ from the US often leads to militarization and occupation, such as that which took place in Haiti, following devastating earthquakes. There, relief operations were led by the US military’s Southern Command, and scholars have illustrated the subsequent role of USAID in working with US corporations in creating patterns of dependency in the country. One academic has described it saying. "USAID used the occurrence of the January 2010 earthquake tragedy to accelerate in Haiti the implementation of a neoliberal agenda congenial to the business promotion of multinational investors, particularly US multinational corporations."

Hoping to avoid such a scenario, President Morales reiterated on Wednesday that “We are no longer forced to submit to ‘international aid’...we can respond ourselves immediately’

The recent fires in the Amazon started in Brazil, though exact causes are unclear, organizations in the Amazon blame loggers and landed elites allied to President Bolsonaro, for deliberately starts fires to clear land for cattle ranching. The European Union's satellite program, Copernicus, showed how the fire then spilled over into Bolivia and Peru. The fire has devastated almost half a million hectares of Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest, largely affecting the historic Chiquitania area.