SALVADOR: Paris and the United Nations called Thursday for the protection of the fire-plagued Amazon rainforest as Brazil’s right-wing president accused his French counterpart of having a “colonialist mentality” over the issue, reports AFP.
Official figures show nearly 73,000 forest fires were recorded in Brazil in the first eight months of the year — the highest number for any year since 2013. Most were in the Amazon.The extent of the area damaged by fires has yet to be determined, but smoke has choked Sao Paulo and several other Brazilian cities in the past week.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the fires.
“In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity,” he said on Twitter.
“The Amazon must be protected.”
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the wildfires were “an international crisis” and called on the globe’s most industrialized nations to address it at their summit this weekend.
“Our house is on fire. Literally. The Amazon, the lung of our planet which produces 20 percent of our oxygen is burning,” Macron said on Twitter.“It is an international crisis. Members of the G7, let’s talk in two days about this emergency.”
That did not sit well with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.
“The French president’s suggestion that Amazon issues be discussed at the G-7 without participation by the countries in the region evokes a colonialist mentality that is out of place in the 21st century,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.
Neighboring Peru, which contains much of the Amazon basin, announced it was “on alert” for wildfires spreading from the rainforest in Brazil and Bolivia.
Paraguay and Bolivia are battling separate wildfires that have devastated large areas of their rainforests.
- ‘Rapid deforestation’ -
Environmental specialists say the fires have accompanied a rapid rate of deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July quadrupled compared to the same month in 2018, according to data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Bolsonaro instead attributes the fires to increased drought, and accuses environmental groups and NGOs of whipping up an “environmental psychosis” to harm Brazil’s economic interests.
“This environmental psychosis lets you do nothing,” the president lamented, adding that it was hampering the country’s development.
“I don’t want to finish the environment, I want to save Brazil,” said Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who had advocated opening up tribal lands and protected areas to farming and mining interests since assuming office in January.