BRASILIA – Brazil on Tuesday launched a campaign to monitor illegal logging and fires destroying the Amazon rainforest in a joint operation between the army and the government’s Environment Agency (Ibama). Six helicopters from the army’s Ground Operations Command will assist Ibama in surveying the major deforestation zone in central Brazil, an area more than twice the size of France.
The operation, due to last through November, will involve some 360 inspectors and cover an area of 540,000 square miles (1.4 million square km) stretching across seven states, Ibama President Marilia Marreco told reporters at the Brasilia air force base.
It coincides with the peak of Brazil’s dry season, when farmers traditionally burn land to prepare it for planting ahead of the rainy season, frequently triggering forest fires which then rage out of control.
But Marreco said the number of hot spots – areas where there is a very high probability that a fire is burning – had fallen compared to last year, especially in the high risk area straddling the north of Mato Grosso and south of Para states.
“The situation is still under control,” she said.
Satellite images showed there were 2,623 hot spots in July, down from 7,316 in the same month in 1998, Ibama said in a statement. In Mato Grosso, hot spots were down to 1,163 in July from 3,352 during the same period last year.
Marreco said the agency was also hoping the Senate would approve the release of an additional $3.5 million in funds from the Group of Seven rich nations, which would allow it to boost its battle on the ground.
“We will be able to send more people, there will be the possibility also of buying equipment, vehicles, and also the question of (funding) a system of information to control the traffic of forest products in the region,” she said.