In the face of environmental stress caused by historic drought, large swaths of forests and wetlands in central South America, known for their exceptional biodiversity, have been devastated by devastating fires. This affected not only nature, but also the well-being of people, reports AFP.

Territories most affected

Experts say wildfires in the region that spans Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay (especially in the region between the Paraguay, Parana and Uruguay rivers) have reached critical levels in 2020.

“There has been a sharp increase in the number of fires. In Argentina, growth was about 170%, which is very serious, ”said Elisabeth Mohle, an environmental policy researcher at the National University of San Martin in Argentina (UNSM). It is part of a broader problem affecting several regions of the world this year, including the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Australia, California and Gran Chaco, the second largest forest in South America after the Amazon, she said.

The Pantanal is a vast swampy tectonic depression in Brazil, small parts of it are also located in Bolivia and Paraguay, in the Paraguay River basin. Located in the west of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul and in the south of the state of Mato Grosso. Pantanal. They are the largest wetlands in the world and are experiencing the worst drought in 47 years.

The Parana River – one of the most powerful on the planet, originates in Brazil and flows into the mouth of the Plate River – at its lowest level since 1970. In August, in Rosario, in eastern Argentina, the water level dropped to 80 centimeters, instead of the usual 3-4 meters for that time of year.

The same is true for the Paraguay River, which is at its lowest level in “half a century,” according to Paraguay’s National Meteorological Center in Asuncion.

Affected species

The fires are fanned by ideal conditions, including strong winds, temperatures in excess of 40 ° C, and a dry season when farmers use slash and burn farming techniques to try to restore the soil.

In Paraguay, “fires in late September and the first week of October broke all records,” said Eduardo Mingo, a senior official at the National Meteorological Center. The number of fires in 2020 increased by 46 percent overall, authorities said.

Paraguay’s capital Asuncion and several cities in northeastern Argentina and southern Brazil have spent days and even weeks in dense fog due to massive fires. And without the usual rainfall to moisten the soil, the wetlands were particularly affected.

The Delta of Parana, home to species such as the jaguar, the Pampas cat and several rodents, has experienced unprecedented fires since January, leaving behind an ash desert of tens of thousands of hectares of wetlands.

“Reptiles, migratory birds, small mammals and turtles have died,” said Cesar Massy, ​​a naturalist in the Argentine province of Santa Fe. “I remember that there were fires during the last drought in 2008. But this year they were stronger, more intense and lasted longer”.

Impact on a person

Agriculture is a huge source of income for the countries of the region, but slash and burn methods only make matters worse.

In northern Argentina, according to Greenpeace, “despite COVID-19 restrictions, from March 15 to September 30, the area of ​​Buenos Aires was cut twice as much as in the same period.”

Community organization Mighty Earth says Paraguay’s dry forests are “one of the main deforestation sites in the world, mainly due to the expansion of grazing and recent soybean plantations.” Note that the Argentine government has accused the breeders of arson to “increase the area of ​​pastures” in the Parana delta.

The problem is not being solved

One problem is that the NGO does not have the necessary funding from the government to enforce regulations and initiate major wildlife restoration or protection projects during a crisis.

“The provincial government has fewer and fewer funds for prevention, no monitoring posts, virtually no environmental police,” said Alfredo Leites, a member of the environmental team Ambiente en Lucha from Cordoba, Argentina.

In Brazil, “the number of volunteer contracts” has dropped by 58%, ”said Alika Tuo of the Centro de Vida, referring to the people who were mobilized to put out the fires. She firmly places the blame on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a notorious climate change skeptic.