The Pantanal region in the Center-West, Mato Grosso do Sul state, is considered as the world’s largest wetland area. So why is it that Brazil’s wettest biome, that yearly experiences heavy rainfalls, is on fire? Just as the Amazon rainforest has been facing deforestation peaks, the Pantanal is also being hit by record fires this year: by August 13, at least 14,500 fires were recorded, resulting in a 17-percent loss of the native vegetation in 2020.
Indeed, people in several parts of the country are complaining about the humidity dropping and causing dry weather. But this time of the year always had weather like this, so we have to search for different reasons to explain how fires in a moist environment could increase by 210 percent since 2019.
We should remember that, during the week, the Brazilian Federal Police announced an investigation into five local farmers who allegedly burned up to 25,000 hectares of the Pantanal wetland, to clear the conservation area for cattle-ranching. The operation is searching for evidence that could land the suspects a 15-year sentence. So, there you have it, the dry weather is not the only thing to blame.
These environmental criminals, like the ones being investigated by the Feds investigation, rely on the support of President Jair Bolsonaro and Environment Minister Ricardo Salles. We can’t forget that Mr. Salles once said in a private meeting (which was leaked to public) that the government could take advantage of the press’ undivided attention on the Covid-19 pandemic to “run the cattle herd” through the Amazon, “changing all of the rules and simplifying standards.”
So, we ask the question again: is it really just the dry climate?