Amazon: Lungs of the World or Economic Wallet?

The Amazon forest, renowned for being the largest rainforest of the planet covers an area of 5.5 million km. Situated in north-western Brazil, the rainforest is well known as ‘The lungs of the world’. The title is well justified as the forest provides 20% of the world’s oxygen. It alone shelters 10% of the world’s biodiversity, spanning across forty thousand plant species and five thousand animals. Although, nature’s most spectacular collection of green is being engulfed by the raging fires, suffocating Brazil under its thick smoke. An in-text, environmental crisis like deforestation, lack of rain, climate change is said to have been the cause of these fires. But in my opinion, there may have been a more skeptical reason. Perhaps, the occurrence of the fires in the forests of Brazil isn’t as natural as they may seem. Several conservationists and environmentalists claim that the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro is the real reason behind these fires. Mr. Bolsonaro took industrialization to the next step by opening the rainforest to industries and supporting loggers and farmers to clear large areas on forest land illegally. Logging and cattle-ranching industries depend on deforestation on a wholesome degree. 12% of land which was a part of the forest has now been converted into cattle grazing hotspots. The government has followed through by cutting funds and staffing in order to weaken environmental laws in Brazil. Statistically, deforestation has now increased by 30% compared to the previous years. Until the act of heartlessly cutting down trees is effectively curbed, the fires can be expected almost every year. The government of Brazil has demonstrated its rigorous efforts of building hydroelectric dams to such an extent that Amazon’s river has come down to be the only water source free from industrial construction. Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s Environmental Minister called a special meeting regarding “the illegal economy” and transferred teams who were earlier assigned to distant forests like Brasilia to monitor the amazon forest and its whereabouts. The President’s sketchy policies served the motive for international isolation. As a result, the aid sponsored by Germany and Norway froze causing a loss of over a million dollars towards the fostering of the rainforest. Last month 32 international Finance Institutions with a combined value of 3.7 trillion US dollars warned the President about directing deforestation in Brazil, failure to do so would mean that the country’s economy would fall drastically. In response to International business, Mr. Bolsonaro declared “Absolute Moratorium” for 120 days. By law, this act restricts the burning of trees completely in the Amazon and Pantanal area too. Apart from this, Brazil’s meat industry has been attacked by accelerating pressure to stop cattle from illegally deforesting Amazon areas. Under Brazil’s legally binding National Policy on Climate Change, the government committed to cut down the annual deforestation rate overall to 3,925 square kilometers by the end of 2020. Instead, 4,700 square kilometers have already been cleared by the end of July. In contrast, Vice President of Brazil, Hamilton Mourão said that the government agents have been executing urgent measures to contain deforestation and fires. Although statistically speaking, the National Institution of Space Research (INPE) has recorded satellite imaging of two thousand two hundred and forty-eight fires in the month of June alone which happens to be the dry month in Brazil. Environmental experts have used the term ‘Tipping point’ to describe the change in nature.

But now the situation has pounced away from control with the pandemic hitting the world. The coronavirus catastrophe has endangered lives in more ways than we can imagine. The infection count in Latin America has raised to up to 85 thousand. Groups in charge of providing healthcare provisions have been drowning incompetency due to the urgent medical attention towards the pandemic as well as the increasing number of patients affected due to deadly respiratory concerns caused by the Amazon fires. The demand for medical assistance has shot up by 30% within the month of July. It has also been noted that there has been an alarming rise in the number of children and elderly patients being admitted to hospitals due to respiratory illness. The ones who have been most affected by these Amazon fires are the indigenous tribes who have sought refuge in the dense rainforest and depend on it for their basic survival needs. The fire has jeopardized their lives extensively leaving them to render homeless with a bonus of allergies and diseases. The largest recognized tribe of the Amazon is the Mura tribe. There are 18,000 Mura who live in the Amazonas state. Their largest settlement can be traced in and around Hamaita in the Amazonas state. The Mura tribe were primarily fishermen. “With each passing day, we see the destruction advance,” said Handerch Wakana Mura, one of the several leaders of the tribe. The Mura clan have consolidated their will about fighting the loggers and others intending to exploit the forest. At present, the fire has reached 20 miles away from their settlement. The air pollution rate has been eagerly intense. Biodiversity has been hit hard. Some species of wilderness with a low mobility rate are unlikely to escape the fires.

At this pivotal moment for the Earth, it is important that we take this problem as a serious concern and pledge to work against climate change, wildlife extinction, and pollution.

Author: Amodini Bhat

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