Shocking images show illegal fires raging in the Amazon


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Manaus, 17 July, 2020 – Images captured by Greenpeace Brazil from July 7-10 show fires raging throughout the state of Mato Grosso in the Amazon rainforest. It has been illegal to start fires in the state since July 1st and, as of yesterday, there is a 120-day moratorium on fires in the Amazon as a whole.

As well as fires, Greenpeace Brazil documented images of completely burned areas and areas being prepared for burning.

With 4,437 hotspots [1], the state of Mato Grosso has had the highest number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon this year, representing half of all fires in the Brazilian Amazon in 2020 [2].

Romulo Batista, Greenpeace Brazil Amazon campaigner, said:
“Banning fires alone does not work. Those calling on the Brazilian government to act cannot fool themselves and think that President Bolsonaro’s sloppy PR moves will have meaningful impacts. 

“These images, along with the record deforestation rates this year, are the intended outcome of Bolsonaro’s long term strategy for the Amazon. His government has been dismantling environmental protection laws and kneecapping the power of the environmental protection agencies since he took office. They have even used the COVID-19 pandemic as a smokescreen to further enable deforestation, logging and mining.

“This administration is doing nothing but putting the climate and more lives at risk, especially those of Indigenous Peoples. Protecting the capacity to monitor and stop environmental destruction and to enforce the law is essential.”

In June 2020, 2,248 fires were recorded in the Amazon, a 20 percent increase compared to June 2019 (1,800) and the largest recorded number for the month since 2007. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon also hit a 13-year record high during the month of June. From 1 to 13 July, 1,057 fires were already recorded in the biome. [3]

Large fires in the Amazon rainforest do not occur naturally, but are deliberately set by farmers or land grabbers to expand the land used for cattle ranching and industrial agriculture production. 

Anna Jones, head of forests at Greenpeace UK, said:
“Just a few weeks ago, more than 40 companies, including several British supermarkets, signed a letter [4] to the Brazilian Congress expressing their concern about Amazon fires and deforestation. Those supermarkets will be judged on how they respond to this unfolding crisis. They all sell high volumes of industrial meat, much of which is connected to deforestation in forests like the Amazon. It’s time supermarkets dropped forest destroyers and replaced industrial meat with plant based options – it’s vital if we’re to reduce our impact on the climate, people and wildlife.” 

Indigenous Peoples, already dealing with the additional risk of COVID-19, will face even higher risk, as fires intensify and air pollution is added to the list of their health threats.

The Brazilian government’s actions against the environment has been damaging the country’s reputation and economy, as investors, trade partners and major Brazilian companies have publicly raised concerns over Bolsonaro’s government’s impacts on the climate and on human rights. But Bolsonaro’s response has been performative and ineffective, such as deploying the army in costly and inefficient operations to fight deforestation and an insufficient 120-day “fires moratorium”.

The exploitation of nature and people is a major cause of the current health, climate and biodiversity crises. Greenpeace is demanding governments and companies to end business with forest destroyers and align trade to support resilient economies that put nature and people first.



Notes to editors:

[1] Number of hotspots registered from 1 January to July 13.

[2] 49.52% – analysis based on INPE (Brazilian Space Research Institute) data.

[3] All analysis based on deforestation alerts and data from INPE.

[4] Letter led by the Retail Soy Group

Photos and videos available here.



Alison Kirkman, press officer, Greenpeace UK, +44 7896 893154  

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