Amazon fires expose weakness of Peru's defences

07 September 2019

Mercifully, Peru has so far escaped the uncontrollable fires that have devastated other South American countries over recent weeks, notably Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. But the flames have not been far away. Fires have wrought major destruction in Acre (Brazil) and Pando (Bolivia), regions that border on Madre de Dios.

However, the proximity of these conflagrations has underlined Peru’s vulnerability. A reporter for La República has exposed the weaknesses of Peru’s defences in Madre de Dios. Firefighters there number just 35 and they are already fully extended, fighting an average of four forest fires every day. The crews complain that they are woefully ill-equipped for the work they undertake and the authorities routinely ignore their appeals for funding. 

They report that over the last month they have successfully tackled 180 forest fires in Inambari, Iberia and Alegría.

The problem of forest fires in Peru is, of course, a common one, reflecting the slash-and-burn practices of clearing land for agricultural use. According to the platform Global Forest Watch Fires, using information from NASA, there have been no less than 22,000 fires identified so far this year, with Ucayali one of the regions worst affected. Last month, a fire near Oxapampa in Pasco region resulted in the loss of 300 hectares of jungle. 

The presidents of Peru. Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia met on 6 September in Leticia (Colombia, close to the frontiers of Peru and Brazil) to sign an agreement pledging sustainable development and reforestation in the Amazon. Let’s see what actually transpires. Jair Bolsonaro was not present, though the Brazilian foreign minister was there. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro was not invited.

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    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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