Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze
HUGE forest fires in the north Brazilian state of Roraima were blamed yesterday on aggressive agricultural development in the Amazon region.
Reinaldo Barbosa, a specialist in tropical ecosystems at the National Institute of Amazon Research, said although the El Niño weather phenomenon had a role, “the real lesson is just how dangerous it is for farmers to burn land in a region like this”.
The fires began in January when small farmers started setting light to fields to create new cultivation areas or to fertilise old land. They are now raging out of control and have entered rainforest areas.
Barbosa said nearly 75% of savannah grassland had been burnt. Up to half might be set ablaze by farmers in a normal year, but the dry conditions this year had spread the flames to parts of the rainforest usually too wet to burn.
Special water-carrying helicopters were called in yesterday to control the fires. But some experts think they will have little impact in the rain forest because of the thick tree-top roof.
- Financial Times 24/03/98 page 8
- The Independent 24/03/98 page 14