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Amazon fires: Bolsonaro actively trying to devastate rainforest, leaked documents show

Brazil’s government plans to build bridge, motorway and hydroelectric plant through world's largest jungle

Zamira Rahim,Chris Baynes
Friday 23 August 2019 13:11 BST
Bolsonaro speaks about wildfires in Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro hopes to sabotage conservation efforts in the Amazon, leaked documents have revealed.

The Brazilian government intend to build bridges, motorway and hydroelectric plant in the jungle to “fight off international pressure” to protect the world’s largest rainforest.

The plans, leaked to political website openDemocracy, emerged as devastating fires rage through the Amazon.

Brazil’s space research centre, Inpe, has detected 72,843 fires so far this year an 84 per cent rise compared to 2018.

The blazes have been blamed for a plume of smoke which blocked out the sun over Sao Paulo on Monday.

The leaked documents include Powerpoint slides thought to have been presented at a meeting between Brazilian government officials and local leaders in Para state, which is home to the Amazonia National Park.

During February’s meeting, according to Open Democracy, Brazilian ministers used the presentation to detail projects planned for by the region by Mr Bolsonaro’s government.

Development projects must be implemented on the Amazon basin to integrate it into the rest of the national territory in order to fight off international pressure for the implementation of the so-called ‘Triple A’ [conservation] project,” one slide reads.

To do this, it is necessary to build the Trombetas river hydroelectric plant, the Óbidos bridge over the Amazon river, and the implementation of the BR-163 highway to the border.”

The Triple A project is a conservation effort led by the organisation Gaia Amazonas, in collaboration with NGOs and international governments.

It aims to conserve the world’s largest protected area, a corridor of rainforest 135 million hectares long stretching from the Andes mountain range to the Amazon and Atlantic ocean.

But Mr Bolsonaro, Brazil’s controversial far-right president, appears to be deliberately obstructing the conservation effort and claiming that NGOs and indigenous communities living within the Amazon are undermining the country.

The desperate efforts of indigenous communities to save the forest have recently attracted attention on social media.

One clip, which was first shared online in July, features a distressed Pataxo woman who accuses illegal ranchers of starting fires in the Amazon. It has been viewed almost five million times.

Brazil’s government is now under increasing pressure to intervene.

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Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister, was booed and heckled on Wednesday while appearing at the Latin American and Caribbean Climate Week.

The meeting, which focused on climate change, was held in the city of Salvador. As Mr Salles took to the stage at the summit, he was met only with jeers.

Mr Bolsonaro on Thursday claimed his government “lacks the resources” to fight the blaze, but many environmental groups are now blaming him directly for the devastation.

Richard George, head of forests at Greenpeace, told The Independent: “The whole area around the Amazon has been highly volatile with loggers and farmers, and Bolsonaro has absolutely lit a torch under that.”

The raging wildfires, which are burning during the dry season, took hold after farmers reportedly announced a coordinated ”day of fire” on 10 August.

Mr George said: “The idea was to clear land but also to send a signal of their support for Bolsonaro, the idea being that you would see the smoke and see that they’re hard at work delivering his agenda of developing the Amazon and other forests in Brazil.

“What he has done through his words and deeds is given the go-ahead to farmers and illegal loggers, encouraging them into indigenous communities.”

Communities in and around the Amazon have had their land “stolen” and were likely to suffer “pretty serious” respiratory problems from the smoke caused by the fires, he added.

French president Emmanuel Macron on Thursday described the Amazon fires as an “international crisis”, calling on world leaders to “discuss the emergency” at the G7 summit this weekend.

“The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire,” he tweeted. “It is an international crisis.”

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