September 08, 2019

Amazon Forest Fire

Tapati Mukhopadhyay

AMAZON Rain Forest has been burning at a record rate since August 2019. The raging forest fire has not only been continuing but also expanding.  The core of the fire ball is in Brazil, encompassing the area of Equator and Peru. Brazil has at last declared a state of emergency because of this devastating fire in the region. So far this year almost 73,000 numbers of areas have experienced the raging forest fire; but alarmingly, the number crossed 80,000 in the last week.

Incidents of forest fire in the country have been detected by Brazil Space Research Centre (INPE), as high as 83 per cent increase from 2018. This is the highest number in record since 2013. The situation has become worse-day by day. Smoke and dust have not just covered the fire-affected area but also engulfed a larger area. Local people have been coming out in large number in protest against the failure of the government to control fire. Question has been coming in the mind, whether the president of Brazil and his team are interested to prevent the fire or they want to use this fire for increasing the area of deforestation. Land of Amazon is very much in demand for the expansion of profitable commercial activities like ranching, farming and commercial agriculture.

 The Amazon Rain Forest is typically wet and humid in the months of July and August. The forest related activities like collections from the forest clearing of the peripheral area, promotion of beef rearing, etc.,  intensify by early September and continue up to mid November. Many times fire is used to clear out the land for the above activities. It is in this context vast majority of fire incidents can be attributed to human greed. President, Jair Bolsonaro has said publicly that he thought that fire was set by the non governmental organisations(NGOs) in retaliation of funding curb initiated by his government.  However, there is no evidence for his claim.

It has been said by the various authorities that forest fire and climate change is intricately interrelated. It has devastating effect on the local atmosphere as the number of fire increases, so does green house gas emissions. This make the planet‘s overall temperature to rise. With the increase of temperature, extreme weather events like major drought happen more often. In addition to increased emissions, deforestation contributes directly to a change in rainfall pattern in the affected region.  It is the hot spot of biodiversity, some elsewhere extinct varieties of insects, flowers and plants are still seen here.  With slight change in ecology and environment, the world will lose this unique patch of existing biodiversity.

 Amazon Rain Forest generates more than 20 per cent of world’s oxygen. It is also the home of 10 per cent of biodiversity. Amazon is referred to as ‘lung of the planet’.  It plays a major role in regulating the global climate. The world would drastically change if the rain forests were to disappear. It will have an adverse impact on our living-from power generation to supply of drinking water.  Massive deforestation will pave the way for desertification.


The rain forest is located in South America, stretching a brilliant 55 million km square; the Amazon basin which houses the forest is slightly bigger with a covering area of over 70 million km square. The basin is the area that drains into Amazon River.

It is located between Tropic of Cancer in the north and Tropic of Capricorn in the south.  The equator the imagery line is passing in between. The Amazon Forest is located in nine different countries. The major part is in Brazil (60 per cent). The remaining 40 per cent can is in Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guyana Surinam.


Being located at the centre of the globe the area receives straight sunlight resulting in intense solar energy. The high energy intensity is consistent throughout the day for 12 hours and everyday in the year.  And, it goes on year after year. The consistent sunlight provides the essential energy necessary to power the forest through photosynthesis. Average temperature throughout the year remains in the range of 22 to 34 degree centigrade.

 To  be more precise, it is  in the Inter Tropical Convergent Zone (ITCZ) where intense solar energy produce a convection zone of rising air that losses its moisture through frequent  rain storm. Amazon also carries this peculiarity and receives 2,000 mm average rainfall in the year. Rainfall occurs throughout the year. Trees never shed their leaves-so it is ever green forest.

Moisture from rainfall provides a constant cloud cover, and transportation creates a strong local humidity. Each canopy tree transports 760 litres of water transpired into the atmosphere for every acre of canopy tree. The Amazon rain forest is responsible for creating as much as 50 per cent of its own precipitation.


The detected cause of forest fire is manmade, and of course, there is certain commercial motivation which indulges people to enter into the forest to collect sap, leaf, bark and nut. The main economic exploitation is on collection of forest products. Using the wood for commercial purpose is extremely difficult here. Tropical hardwood is used for constructional activities, infrastructure building and furniture making. There are five well known varieties of wood namely mahogany, ebony, cedar, rose wood and teak. All these are used for construction and related activities as mentioned above. Each one has specialised geographical area for its growth.  Cedar is jet black African wood. Amazon is the home for mahogany and rose wood

In the last few decades the Amazon Forest attracted number of commercial activities. These activities are in the outer rim of the forest; one is ranching and the other is farming. It is to be noted here that Brazil is the home for important tropical commercial agricultural products namely coffee and natural rubber. These were introduced during the colonial period under the banner of plantation agriculture. In fact, rubber seeds were stolen from Brazil and planted in Malaysia.  It is also the original home for Robusta coffee.

Satellite imageries give latest information. It shows that fire is in the peripheral area of the forest. Two important land functions are carried; ranching and farming in the buffer areas, between the thick forest and scanty forested area. Day by day ranching has become popular. There is great demand for animal products in international market .Brazil is the largest exporter of beef providing close to20 per cent of the global export, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Brazil has shipped 1.64 million tonnes of beef generating $ 6.57 billion of revenue, according to Brazilian Beef Exporters Association. More land is required which cannot be legally obtained, deforestation is not allowed in this area. Thus forest fire is effected to ensure deforestation takes place.


This continuing wild fire has brought international pressure on Bolsonaro.  French President, Emmanuel Macron has directly accused Bolsonaro for promoting illegal activity in Brazil forest area. Bolsonoro’s lack of commitment on climate issue also came to the fore. President of Ireland also joined hand with French president; he said that he was ready to block trade deal between the European Union and Brazil unless Brazil took action against fire. Many European leaders including Macron and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that Amazon fire should be discussed at the upcoming G 7 summit. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris said that the Amazon rain forest was burning because of irresponsible behaviour of a small number of international politicians and corporate executives.