Originally written by Latin American Press.
Bolivia loses 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) to deforestation every year, but the area destroyed by the burning of grassland for livestock and forest fires is even greater, and flames spread extensively as a result of winds, dry conditions, and lack of control, according to the nongovernmental organization Bolivian Forum on the Environment and Development, or FOBOMADE.
In September alone, almost 40,000 forest fires or hot spots were registered throughout the country, observed environmentalist organization Herencia, which is based in the department of Pando on the border with Brazil and Peru. Eighty-five percent of those hotspots were in the eastern departments of Beni and Santa Cruz.
According to FOBOMADE, in an article signed by Abrahán Cuéllar Araujo, “forest fires continue throughout the country, but with greater intensity and surface area in the Amazon region, where woodlands are still being decimated, destroying biodiversity.”
The organization also warned that forests and fauna will be at critical risk without extensive action by the state to control the situation. “It’s said the causes are the effects of climate change because of droughts, increased temperatures, [and] lowered humidity levels, but that excludes the primary cause, which is human actions.” Fires are also used to control pests and weeds in pasturelands, as well as to clear land for farming and livestock, it added.
Beni has seen the most hotspots resulting from burning to clear land for livestock, while in Santa Cruz 75 percent of deforestation is because of expanding agribusiness.
“While it’s true that climate changes like heat and drought create conditions that breed fires, it’s known that they are started by people looking to expand farming and livestock by converting woodlands into farmlands, with economic gains in mind,” FOBOMADE posited.
Beyond losing biodiversity, flora and fauna, one of the gravest results of deforestation is decreased rainfall. Evaporation from pasturelands and forests produces rainfall, continuing the natural water recycling process, the organization explained.
FOBOMADE indicated there are rules for clearing and burning lands, but they aren’t followed because government officials tasked with monitoring, controlling, and enforcing them don’t have the resources or the will to stop this “permanent ecocide.”
The organization denounced the tendency to favor soy monocultures — largely for export — which exhaust the soil, and pleaded with the government to support small scale farmers, campesinos, and indigenous people, whose experiences encourage food sovereignty and security.
“As it stands now, the situation can’t continue, which is why we are appealing to the conscience of our leaders and social forces to change the vision and attitude regarding this model of irrational exploitation of natural resources for the comfort of an elite that gets richer at the expense of the destruction of biodiversity,” the organization concluded.