WORLD BANK FINANCES EMERGENCY FIRE PREVENTION AND CONTROL PROJECT IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST
WASHINGTON, September 3, 1998, The World Bank today approved a US$15 million loan to prevent and control large-scale wildfires in the southern part of the Brazilian Amazon during the dry season of 1998.
The Brazilian Amazon contains nearly one-third of the worlds remaining tropical rainforests that provide important global environmental services such as an invaluable source of biodiversity, a carbon sink, and protection of the watershed of the Worlds largest river. Each year, a significant amount of forest is burned accidentally by escaped fires caused mainly by farmers and ranchers clearing land to plant crops or renew pasture.. The risk of these “escaped” fires is higher during the dry season and particularly, in 1998 due to the El Niño weather pattern that has caused a dramatic drop in rainfall compared to other years.
The proposed project would focus specifically on preventing and controlling wildfires in the Amazon forests in order to protect human life, infrastructure, biodiversity and watersheds, particularly in the southern region. This emergency project, scheduled to begin in September 1998, would assist both federal and state environmental agencies in the Amazon to implement an education and public awareness campaign, provide fire prevention and control training, and establish a rapid response task force to combat major fires, if and when they occur. The project would focus on high-risk areas identified by weather data, modeling and satellite imagery. In addition, for the medium-term, the project would support strengthening Federal, State and Municipal emergency preparedness through the Civil Defense System and relevant institutions.
The main benefits of this project are expected to be environmental, institutional and social, including:
Reduced occurrence of large-scale fires and the potential economic and social (health) losses to residents of the Amazon.
Enhanced protection of the Amazon rain forest and the environmental services it provides;
Improved knowledge of how to prevent fire escapes in this region;
Sustainable partnerships among federal, state and civil society organizations in an emergency setting;
Development of a system of rapid response to fires which could be used in future emergencies, including other recurrent natural disasters and accidents.
The Task Manager for the Project, Daniel Gross of the Sustainable Development Unit in the Latin America Region, said ” the project’s goals are not to prevent all burning in the region since fire as a tool for clearing and burning is a traditional tool that will not be supplanted in the near term. Rather the project seeks to help control fires from burning out of control and to generate lessons on how better to use and control fire in the Amazon region. The focus is very much on the local community where fire is used.”
The US$15 million, LIBOR-based, single currency loan has 15 years to maturity and a grace period of five years.