Thousands of fires linked to agriculture wreak havoc in Amazon

28.11.2016

Fires along the Rio Xingu in Mato Grosso state Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of illegal forest fires linked to cattle ranching and agriculture have caused considerable damage to the Brazilian Amazon in 2016, according to recent data released by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

INPE’s Programa Queimadas (Fire Programme), a programme that monitors fires via satellite, has shown that states in the Brazilian northern, centre-western and north-eastern regions are the worst affected by criminal fires.

According to INPE’s data, the states with the highest numbers of forest fires are:

  • Mato Grosso (28,420)
  • Pará (18,669)
  • Maranhão (17,016)
  • Tocantins (14,269)
  • Amazonas (11,364)
  • Rondônia (11,239)
  • Piauí (7,169)
  • Acre (6,942)
  • Mato Grosso do Sul (6,678)
  • Minas Gerais (6,515)

The states of the Amazon agricultural frontier, Mato Grosso, Pará and Maranhão, top the table. Amazonas, Rondônia and Acre, mostly covered by the Amazon rainforest, also have high numbers of fires, indicating high levels of illegal activity in these states.

Although most fires take place during periods of drought, INPE dismisses arguments that they are accidental or caused by lightning. According to the institute, several of the fires are deliberate and meant to clear areas for agriculture and cattle ranching.

Unusually, 2016 saw record numbers of fires in January, February, March and April, while September had lower than average numbers of fires, mainly due to unseasonal rains.

In August, INPE alerted to a 65 per cent rise in forest fires in 2016 compared with the previous year.

According to Pará’s Environment Agency (Semas), the state had 464 forest fires in 66 municipalities between 18 and 20 November. Most of the fires took place in the northeast part of the state and in Marajó. 

The municipalities with the highest numbers of fire were Moju (35), Novo Repartimento (31) and Acará (32). Semas has emphasised that forest fires are environmental crimes according to article 50 of the 6.514/2008 federal decree.

There are federal, state and municipal laws prohibiting fires but these are rarely enforced.

More from Blog

There Will Be Blood / Four key takeaways from our latest report

Continue reading
UK Environment Act / Analyses show exemptions would create dangerous loopholes

Continue reading

Leather / BMW fails to substantiate allegations against Earthsight’s research


Continue reading
It is essential that a mandatory public list of non-compliant businesses is included in the final regulation to curb EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation

Continue reading
Brazil / World’s largest sovereign wealth fund finds beef giant guilty of driving illegal deforestation

Continue reading
Grand Theft Chaco II / Paraguay Senate seeks accountability from government following Earthsight illegal deforestation exposé

Continue reading
EU anti-deforestation law / Suspect timber firms lobby for certified wood ‘green lane’ in draft proposal

Continue reading
Open letter / Paraguay must halt invasions, deforestation of indigenous Ayoreo lands

Continue reading
FSC hall of shame / The ethical wood label’s long line of scandals

Continue reading
Open letter / Ethical wood label FSC is no longer fit for purpose and must urgently reform

Continue reading

Stay up to date with all Earthsight news & updates

Receive email updates for the latest news and insights from Earthsight and be among the first to read our new investigations.

We keep your data secure and don’t share anything with third parties. Read full terms.