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What do the fires in the Amazon mean for India?

An international crisis has been declared with the burning of the largest tropical rainforest in the world, the Amazon. Many researchers around the world and Brazil’s indigenous people are holding responsible the dramatic rise in deforestation, as the major cause, for the fires.

While the spike in deforestation in the Amazon is evident and the measures needed are being made clear by the indigenous people, the environment in the Brazil’s presidential system is annoyingly dispassionate. President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration reacted to the news by blaming the NGOs for deliberately causing fires to the forest, as part of the protest against the administration’s development policies. This is a unique situation in part because it is a display of government’s and corporations’ incapacity of an action plan for a catastrophe of such a magnitude.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported around 76,000 fires across the Amazon. However, the data seems to be from the past, as the other satellite sources, which are being used to identify the intensity of these fires, claim the current count of the fires to be significantly higher.

Wood extraction, cleaning land for crops and livestocks, agricultural and infrastructure expansions and illegal logging all join hands in meeting local, national and international needs resulting in “development-led” deforestation.

The above practises are said to have consumed 15% of the amazon so far, and we fear if the deforestation escalates to more than 25%, it will lurch an irreversible change in the ecosystem of the forest, by reducing its condensation capacity and, eventually, the Amazon losing its title of the world’s largest rainforest. The event is turning one of the largest carbon skins into a carbon source.

Owing to the incessant protests by the indigenous people and growing awareness of the situation, a few developed economies have come together to alleviate the impacts, and a 60-day ban on forest fires to clear land has been declared by the administration, but the existing forest fires are here to stay; they continue to distress the locals, leaving them displaced and exposed to some serious health hazards.       

 

What this poor orchestration of curbing damages in the Amazon means for India?

As a developing country and one of the largest economies of the world, India is one of the largest green house gas emitters that is already pulsating like the burning Amazon.

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change shared a report in parliament that mentioned India has less than 25% forest and tree covered land. The report is an evidence that India is struggling with its effort to achieve the target of covering 33% of its land under forest covers, which it’s been trying for more than a decade.

Deforestation is consistently on rise, accommodating industrial projects, as India tries to climb the world economic ladder. The tribal communities, which amount to more than a fifth of the country’s population, benefit scantly from the government’s economic development programmes. The underserved tribal community is a scary demonstration of the country’s adaptive policies.

To truly inspect the government’s adaptive capacity, we must pay attention to the damages caused by annually occurring floods in the country. Every year, 2,000 lives are lost and more than 18 billion dollars are reported in damages. India spends more on compensation than it does on prevention, and still lacks sophisticated forecasting and reporting techniques.

A recent satellite inspection of glaciers in Garhwal Himalayas brought to our attention the alarming melting of the ice. Researchers have warned that by 2035 most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could disappear. India has not declared any action plan to stop the ice from retreating, and has not announced any mobilisation of funds or any other support for preventive or adaptive purposes.

The current situation in the Amazon sheds light on catastrophic effects of driving economic growth unsustainably. And the consequences of dilatory response to the fires warn India and other countries to put in place adaptation measures that involve easy access to eduction on the changing climate and spontaneous deployment of healthcare to the communities that are suffering due to environmental disasters.

By Prasad Badgujar