May 25, 2020
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The vast Brazilian jungle in the lush Amazon rainforest is critical to the health of the planet. In the past 50 years, the forest has lost at least 17% of its expanse—wildfires being a major culprit

Photograph by Getty Images

The smoke-shrouded scene in a lush Amazon rainforest underscores the enormity of the bushfires in the vast Brazilian jungle critical to the health of the planet. The rain has fallen lately, dousing major blazes. Some have burned themselves out. Still, smoke continues to billow from charred fields and scrub­—mostly deforested areas, or land cleared for farming and livestock...

The Lungs

  • The Amazon basin has the world’s largest rainforest—a unique ecosystem, the most biodiverse, it houses at least 10% of the known biodiversity on Earth, home to a million indigenous people
  • Spread over 1.4 billion acres
  • 60% of the forest is in Brazil; the rest in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  • The Amazon forest produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, acc­ording to some experts. But most scientists say the actual figure is probably below 6%.
  • Still, it is an important carbon sink that counteracts climate change. In a normal year, the Amazon rainforest absorbs about 2.2 billion tonne (2 billion metric tonne) of carbon dioxide, studies suggest.

The Fire

  • In the past 50 years, the forest has lost at least 17% of its expanse—wildfires being a major culprit, the others being logging and clearing land for crops
  • There have been more than 74,000 fires across Brazil this year, and nearly 40,000 fires across the Amazon, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.It is the highest since 2010—about 35% higher than the average for the first eight months of each year since 2010
  • On August 19, Sao Paulo became dark in the afternoon under a thick haze, though it is about 2,700 km away from the fire-spots
  • The Amazon basin is losing forest patches the size of a football pitch every minute (both due to logging and fires)

Man Villain

  • Christian Poirier, programme director of Amazon Watch, told CNN that “the vast majority of these fires are human-lit”. Even during dry seasons, the Amazon doesn’t catch fire easily as it is a humid rainforest, quite unlike the ones in California (or Uttarakhand). Besides, there was no drought in 2019. The Amazon is being cleared for logging, soy farms and beef ranches. Many have criticised the far-right president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, for not doing enough to stop the fires.

Source: The internet

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