4.1 million hectares of forest destroyed by fire in Bolivia…

…and this extension is similar to the size of Switzerland!

Dear readers, this great text was written by Marolyn Vidaurre in October 2019, and we have published it at our website. As we have a blog now, we decided to publish it again, since in a few days a new post will be published with some updates =)

By Marolyn Vidaurre

More than 40 days after the forest fires began, a loss of 4.1 million hectares is estimated throughout the national territory. The department of Santa Cruz concentrates 71 percent of the total areas affected by fires nationwide and Chiquitania is the most affected region with more than 2,440,000 hectares burned. Additionally, there have been fires in 20 of the 22 protected areas in the country. Although it has been possible to control the fire in some sectors, strong winds and high temperatures are causing the flames to advance at 1,000 meters per day in a curtain greater than 45 kilometers.

Photo CIWY 2019

Start of the forest fire

There are several factors that have favored the massive spread of fires. The first is related to the high temperatures recorded this year, together with the prolonged dry season and water deficit greater than six months throughout the region. The second is due to the practices of chaqueo that are carried out every year at this time, the chaqueos are fire caused by farmers that prepare the land for agriculture and for raising cattle. This year, the chaqueos have generated fires that have gone out of control due to extreme heat and drought conditions. Additionally, the controversial Supreme Decree 26075 approved by the State on July 9, which promotes the expansion of the agricultural frontier and allows “controlled burning” in areas of forest use, has triggered an unprecedented situation giving rise to a high number of chaqueos.

Impact on the communities

There are more than 33 surrounding communities that are in emergency, eight of which are in a critical situation. Amid the smoke and extreme heat conditions, families do not have water to drink; the little water that comes to them is full of ashes. Digestive problems, infections, cough and conjunctivitis have been reported. There are no activities, and school work has been suspended. 4,472 affected families are estimated according to Civil Defense report as of September 5, 2019.

Biodiversity Impact

The region affected by forest fires has a unique biodiversity. In general, more than 1,200 species of fauna, including 43 amphibians, 140 reptiles, 788 birds and 242 mammals are suffering the consequences of this disaster. The College of Biologists of La Paz established that in the Chiquitanía there are 3,500 species of plants, 200 of them are endemic and 554 species of fauna of which 35 species are endemic. Experts point out that the damage caused to biodiversity is irreversible, the forest will take 200 years to recover. The advance of fire is generating air, water and soil pollution, as well as species extinction.

Actions

In an interview with Tania (Nena) Baltazar, President and co-founder of the Inty Wara Yassi Community (CIWY), she explains that the scenario that is being lived in Bolivia is sad and bleak, there are more than 2 million hectares that are burning, and the fire is leaving ashes in its path. The impact on biodiversity is irreparable, many species have been affected. CIWY, like many other Bolivian organizations, have joined the cause. CIWY volunteers are currently helping to put out the fire in Concepción and veterinarians are in the temporary shelter for wild animals affected by fires. However, very little is being found, barely 52 animals from 22 species have been rescued with life in critical condition and with severe burns, most are already dead. Those animals that have managed to escape from the fire do not have food or water for weeks, so their hope of survival is very low.

The Ambue Ari sanctuary has also suffered from fires, two years ago 400 hectares of forest have been lost due to the chaqueos of surrounding communities, now they are taking all the provisions to prevent the entry of fire, a fire path has been built, inspections are carried out daily at this time of year especially in the surrounding area. Their task is to protect not only wild animals rescued from illegal traffic but also many other animals that have taken refuge in the center because of deforestation and chaqueos.

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Watson Photo CIWY 2020

What can you do?

The most important that you can do to support the well been of the families and the conservation of biodiversity in the Amazon is to be aware of your life style and levels of consumption with special attention of products that come from this region.

CIWY work is basically thanks of donations and volunteers that are coming from all over to support them, check for more information at: http://www.intiwarayassi.org/ and get in touch with us.

Katie Photo CIWY 2020

Published by Patrícia Gallo

Co-founder of BluoVerda Deutschland e.V. / With a PhD in forest governance and management, I am a forest engineer, social and environmental researcher from Brazil with many years of experience in project development and policy advice, working with different actors (from traditional communities to private sector and government, for example).

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