From the beginning of the year to November 16, 30% of the Pantanal was affected by the historic fires that consumed the biome in 2020. If one only takes into account the Pantanal of Mato Grosso, this figure reaches 40%. The fire in the biome mainly affected forest areas and sub-tanks.
According to a study by the NGO ICV (Instituto Centro de Vida), more than 2.1 million hectares of the Pantanal were affected by calls this year. By connecting the areas of the Amazon and the Cerrado in Mato Grosso, the total incineration reached 8.5 million hectares, an area more than 50 times larger than that of the city of São Paulo.
But even with the fire records for the Pantanal, the Amazon was the biome that burned most in the state of Mato Grosso. More than 3.2 million hectares were affected by the fires.
The analysis shows that the fire in the Amazon was also concentrated in forests and recently deforested areas, categories that together account for 55% of the fires. Pasture and savannah areas appear next with 39% of the fires.
Like deforestation in the state, the fires were concentrated on private properties, areas that are registered in the CAR (Rural Environmental Registry) and whose owners can therefore be easily identified. The study identified 3.96 million hectares that were burned in private areas.
It should be noted that from July 1 to November 16, burning was prohibited in the state. The federal government issued a fire moratorium by decree from July 16, but the state had already promoted and banned the practice earlier this month.
After private land, the unregistered areas come second, with the largest area being burned, followed by indigenous areas. The Xingu National Park in the Amazon region was the indigenous land hardest hit by the fires (224,000 hectares burned).
According to Vinícius Silgueiro, a researcher at ICV and one of the authors of the study, the critical situation the Pantanal was going through was not surprising. He says the scenario is already on the horizon as there was low rainfall in 2019 and early 2020.
Even in the first months of 2020 there were already more fires than usual, which heightened the warning of a possibly non-standard dry season. And that’s exactly what happened.
In addition, Silgueiro reiterates that the political message sent to rural producers is helping to make the situation worse. According to him, there is the idea that deforestation and fires are allowed, which are a drag on development. “The message that is coming in today is this,” he says.
President Jair Bolsonaro (non-party) and members of his government usually minimize environmental crimes like incineration and deforestation, and often even question their very existence, despite the data compiled and made available daily by Inpe, a government agency.
For example, when the fire moratorium was introduced, Bolsonaro himself downplayed its possible importance.
For analysis, the ICV looked at data on fires in the state of Mato Grosso between the beginning of the year and November 16, the date the federal ban on the use of fire in Brazil ended.
The study did not use information from Inpe’s Burned program (National Institute for Space Research), but rather data from NASA.
According to Silgueiro, NASA data was used because it provides an easier view of the area burned rather than the number of hot spots, a measure that is normally assessed in the Inpe program (although the institute also provides data on the area affected by Fire).
The expert also states that, with the data currently available, it is possible to better prepare for the next dry season in the Pantanal and, in particular, to observe fire-prone areas.
“Based on the data, it is possible to better plan the distribution of brigades, firefighters and equipment. You have to shorten the reaction time to be able to control the fire in the beginning, ”he says.