Government ignored warnings about forest fires

Government ignored warnings about forest fires

20 September 2016

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Peru —   The region of Junin is suffering one of the largest forest fires in recent years. About 20 thousand hectares of forest have being consumed by the flames, and various communities where agriculture is their only mean of livelihood have being affected. The first fire occurred on August 19 (five weeks) and to this day the fire has not been controlled.

According to Steffi Rojas, representative of the Ashaninka community of the Ene River, between May and June, various state authorities like SERFOR, Sernanp and Civil Defense, were warned about the risks of various heat sources due to drought in the area, but they did not take the necessary actions to prevent an inferno.

“CARE (humanitarian aid company) warned of the problem caused by the drought and climate change this year. Since then we’ve being giving warnings and even published articles indicating of the problem, but did not receive a positive response from authorities. Last week they began to take some steps, but until today (September 16) there has been no direct intervention,” Rojas said in conversation with Environmental News.

So far, CARE reported that 8 native communities have being most affected by these fires (about 800 people) in 3 towns. These people have not been evacuated yet because so far the fire has affected only part of the forest, but it is feared to spread even further.

“So far the fire has not been controlled. Until [Thursday of last week], the information was that a team of specialists from various institutions would enter the area. We have already communicated with the communities to wait for our team,” said the representative of CARE.

According to Rojas, ten years ago a similar event in the same area was recorded, but this experience has not been considered to prevent these disasters. “Now this danger has been a bureaucratic obstacles at the state level. Civil defense, for example, has told us they have to follow multiple procedures to declare the area under emergency and we insist on an immediate intervention,” Rojas added.

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