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Brazil’s Amazon starts 2024 on record as Green Alliance blames firefighting budget cuts

Smoke from burning vegetation rises through the rainforest on March 2, 2024, on the Yanomami indigenous lands in Roraima state, Brazil.

Smoke from burning vegetation rises through the rainforest on March 2, 2024, on the Yanomami indigenous lands in Roraima state, Brazil.Image source: Reuters

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has experienced its largest fires on record in the first four months of this year, and a union of environmental workers on Monday blamed part of the blame on reduced government spending on firefighting.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has staked his international reputation on protecting the Amazon rainforest and restoring Brazil’s status as a leader in climate policy.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and is crucial to curbing catastrophic global warming because it absorbs large amounts of greenhouse gases.

This year’s drought has fueled fires amid a record drought in the Amazon rainforest, driven by the El Niño climate phenomenon and global warming.

More than 12,000 square kilometers (4,633 square miles) of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest was burned between January and April, the most in more than two decades of data, according to Brazilian space research agency Inpe. This area is larger than Qatar and almost the same size as the U.S. state of Connecticut.

Fires in the Amazon often do not occur naturally but are started by people, often trying to clear land for agriculture.

Environmental workers’ union Ascema said in a statement that firefighting budget cuts were also partly to blame. They complain that environment agency Ibama’s firefighting budget is 24% lower this year than in 2023.

Brazil’s Environment Ministry said in a statement that Amazon Fund, using donations from foreign governments, has invested 405 million reais ($79.4 million) in firefighting at the state level under Lula’s current government, which has been in power since 2023. Work.

The federal government has sent about 380 firefighters to the northern Amazon state of Roraima, the region worst affected by the fires, which have been exacerbated by drought, the ministry said.

It did not respond to questions about cuts to the Ibama fire budget. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ibama agents have suspended field work since January to engage in intense negotiations with the federal government over better wages and working conditions.

Assima rejected the government’s latest offer and demanded a bigger pay rise after more than a decade of meager pay rises and staff reductions.

While the area burned in the first four months of this year is a record, it pales in comparison to fires during the peak of the dry season from August to November, when such a large area could be burned in a month.

“The government needs to understand that without the full participation of environmental workers, the conditions expected this year will be unprecedentedly catastrophic,” said Assima Chairman Kleberson Zawaski.

Manoela Machado, a fire researcher at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, said: “Prevention efforts, such as increasing fire awareness, establishing fire breaks in strategic areas and conducting prescribed burns, all depend on hiring Stable conditions personnel. “These measures will affect the severity of the fire crisis when dry conditions allow fires to spread. “

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