The number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon last month increased 28% compared to July 2019, satellite data showed on Saturday, while environmental groups have warned that a peak this week could devastate the rainforest, known as “the lungs of the planet” again this year.
Brazil’s national space agency, INPE, identified 6,803 fires in the Amazon region in July 2020, compared to 5,318 the previous year.
The number is even more worrying, since 2019 was already a devastating year for fires in the Amazon, sparking global protests.
Only on July 30, satellites detected 1,007 fires in the Amazon, INPE reported.
This was the worst day of fires in July since 2005, said environmental group Greenpeace.
“More than a thousand fires in a single day is a record for 15 years and shows that the government’s strategy of operations with media shows is not working on the ground,” Greenpeace spokesman Romulo Batista said in a statement.
Fires have increased by 77% in indigenous lands and 50% in protected nature reserves as of July 2019, Greenpeace said, showing how illegal activities are increasingly invading these areas.
Brazil owns about 60% of the Amazon.
Pressure on the country has increased to do more to protect the massive forest, considered vital to contain the impact of climate change.
Fires are widely defined to illegally clear land for agriculture, livestock and mining.
Activists accuse Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right skeptic of climate change, of encouraging deforestation with calls to open the rainforest to agriculture and industry.
Bolsonaro sent the army to fight the fires, but activists say it doesn’t go far enough to address the causes of the problem.
The fire season in the region typically occurs between June and October.
Exacerbating the situation this year, experts say that the risks resulting from smoking cause an increase in respiratory emergencies in a region already hit hard by COVID-19.
Brazil has more infections and deaths from new coronaviruses than any other country, except the United States: more than 2.6 million and 92,000, respectively.