Fires rage in Bolivian rainforest
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
September 23, 2005
Fires have burned more than 1700 square miles (4450 square km) of Amazon rainforest and pasture in Bolivia, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency in two provinces.
Officials report that all but two fires have now been contained. Firefighting efforts were being hampered by a lack of equipment. No deaths have been reported.
Each year thousands of fires are set during the dry season for agricultural land-clearing. In 2000, 48.9% of Bolivia’s land area was covered with forest according to the UN, but the country was losing an average of 620 square miles ( 161,000 hectares) of forest per year. This year’s fires mean that deforestation rates will likely top this average rate.
Bolivia’s embattled government has suffered from widespread strikes and protests over the past several months due to its handling of the country’s gas industry. Carlos Mesa, Bolivia’s current president resigned earlier this year due to the ongoing protests. Elections are due in December and one of the leading candidates has said he will legalize coca — the main ingredient in cocaine — if elected.