From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Amazon Forest
Mains level : Forest fires and their global impact
- Over the last several days, the ‘lungs of the Earth’ Amazon rainforest has been burning at a rate that has alarmed environmentalists and governments worldwide.
- The fires are so large that they are visible from space.
- Started in the Amazonian rainforests, the fires have impacted populated areas in the north, such as the states of Rondônia and Acre, blocking sunlight and enveloping the region in smoke.
- The smoke has wafted thousands of miles to the Atlantic coast and São Paulo, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
- Brazil has reported that forest fires in the region have doubled since 2013, and increased by 84% compared to the same period last year.
How did the fire start?
- Mostly caused by farmers clearing land, the fires have thrown the spotlight on Brazilian policies and anti-environment stance.
- The farmers had organised a “fire day” along a highway that runs through the heart of the rainforest.
- Local farmers set ablaze to sections of the rainforest a few days ago to get the government’s attention.
- And dry weather has further fuelled the fire.
- The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.
A cause for concern
- The Amazon rainforest is a repository of rich biodiversity and produces approximately 20 per cent of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere.
- It is also home to indigenous communities whose lives and homelands are under threat due to encroachment.
- The Amazon basin matches the emissions released by nations in the basin. The burning of forests, therefore, implies additional carbon emissions.
- Deforestation could lead to the Amazon’s transformation from the world’s largest rainforest to a savanna, which would reverse the region’s ecology.
Importance of Amazons
- A National Geographic report said the Amazon rainforest influences the water cycle not only on a regional scale, but also on a global scale.
- The rain produced by the Amazon travels through the region and even reaches the Andes mountain range.
- Moisture from the Atlantic falls on the rainforest, and eventually evaporates back into the atmosphere.
- The Amazon rainforest has the ability to produce at least half of the rain it receives. This cycle is a delicate balance.
Flawed environmental policies
- Since the 1960s, the Amazon has witnessed large-scale deforestation because of cattle-ranching, logging, power projects, mining and farming.
- Under Brazil’s Forest Code of 1965, farmers could purchase Amazon land but could farm only 20% of it.
- Agribusiness products in 2016 represented 46% of Brazil’s exports.
- The Amazon rainforest is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America.
- This region includes territory belonging to nine nations.
- The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
- The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world.