Amazon fires: Brazil's army tackles thousands of rainforest fires

Last updated at 07:34
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WATCH: Wildfires are burning in the Amazon rainforest

International leaders gathering at the G7 conference, an annual meeting between leaders from seven of the most powerful countries in the world, have agreed a $22 million package to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain will provide £10m towards protecting the rainforest.

The fires have been burning for more than a month now, and the dry season means they've spread much faster than normal.

They are so extensive that they can be seen from space.

Some people think the fires could have been set on purpose by logging companies or farmers wanting to clear large areas of land.

After pressure from European leaders, the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, ordered the armed forces to help fight the fires over the weekend.

forest-fires-from-space.NASA/EOSDIS
This image taken by Nasa shows a huge area of grey smoke in the middle cause by the fires

The official figures show more than 83,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of the year - the highest number since 2010. That compares with 47,000 in the same period in 2018.

However, 2019 is not the worst year in recent history. Brazil experienced more fire activity in the 2000s - with 2005 seeing more than 133,000 fires in the first eight months of the year.

However, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro brushed off the latest data, saying it was the "season of the queimada" (meaning 'burned'), when farmers use fire to clear land.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg said: "Even out here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I hear about the record amount of devastating fires in the Amazon. My thoughts are with those affected. Our war against nature must end."

The BTS ARMY have also added their voices to the issue, encouraging each other to spread awareness of the fires with the hashtag #ARMYHelpThePlanet on social media.

Why is the Amazon rainforest important?
amazon-rainforest.Getty Images
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth

The Amazon is the biggest tropical rainforest in the world.

It's home to more than three million species of plants and animals, as well as a million tribespeople who live there.

The rainforest is also a vital defence against climate change, fighting carbon dioxide levels and global warming.

In a typical year, the Amazon absorbs around 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

Why do people set fires in the Amazon?
forest-fires-amazon.Getty Images
This picture was taken in 2014 - some forest fires are set on purpose to quickly clear areas of land.

When large areas of trees are cut down or cleared to be used for something else, it is called deforestation.

Since the 1970s, the Amazon rainforest has been targeted by loggers who chop down trees for construction and building roads, as well as farmers, who clear areas of rainforest for plants and animals.

Some of the main causes for deforestation in the Amazon are cattle farming, soybean and palm oil farming, and oil drilling.

deforestation-in-amazon.Getty Images
Large areas of land have been cleared for farming or construction

Fires are often started by people who want to clear an area of land quickly for use in farming, but they can sometimes get out of control.

Of all the countries in the world, Brazil relies heavily on its farming industry for produce, which brings in a lot of money and jobs for the country.

What does the president have to do with it?

Jair Bolsonaro became president of Brazil in January this year.

He has a background in the military and has some controversial opinions.

president-jair-bolsonaroGetty Images
President Jair Bolsonaro has split the country with his divisive opinions.

He has made discriminatory comments about race and the LGBTQ community, and has also said he was in favour of a dictatorship, when one person has control over a whole country and may use force to keep people under control.

While this means he has a lot of critics, some people like him for his frank approach and his promises to boost the economy and tackle crime.

protests.Getty Images
There have been a number of protests against President Jair Bolsonaro's decisions since he came into power

He has come under criticism in the past for favouring construction and development companies, and not punishing loggers harshly like previous governments. Some say he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.

He also made headlines last month for firing the director of the INPE.

The organisation revealed data which showed an 88% increase in deforestation in the Amazon in June compared to the same month a year ago.

But President Bolsonaro accused INPE of lying and trying to undermine the government.

What's the latest?

International leaders gathering at the G7 summit are nearing an agreement to help fight fires in the Amazon rainforest.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that a deal to provide "technical and financial help" was close.

Brazilian President Bolsonaro said that non-governmental organisations may be setting them in the Amazon to embarrass the Brazilian government after it cut their funding, but he gave no evidence to support this claim.

After pressure from European leaders, he ordered the armed forces to help fight the fires.

forest-fire-in-para-state.Reuters
Inpe said it had detected more than 72,000 fires so far this year

Marcio Astrini from environmental charity Greenpeace said: "Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy."

Scientists have said the losses suffered by the rainforest have increased since Mr Bolsonaro took office in January, as his policies put development first over conserving the Amazon.

Smoke from the fires was reported to have caused a blackout in the city of Sao Paulo on Monday, which is more than 2,700km (1,700 miles) away.

However, some experts have said that the smoke came from fires burning in the neighbouring country of Paraguay, which is much closer to the city.

This article initially stated there was a record number of fires in Brazil this year. After more satellite data was made accessible, it has been updated to reflect the fact the fires are instead the worst since 2010.

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