Vast Amazon wildfire destroys forest in Brazil and threatens uncontacted tribe – ‘We will suffer greatly without our forest’Posted by Jim at Friday, October 30, 2015
By Jonathan Watts
30 October 2015
(Rio de Janeiro) – Brazilian rangers, firefighters and indigenous communities are battling against a wildfire that has blazed for two months and devastated some of the last Amazonian forest in the northern state of Maranhão, including part of the territory of an uncontacted tribe.
The fire – which has spread across 100km at its peak – is thought to be the biggest in Indian territory for decades and has prompted the local government to declare a state of emergency.
It comes amid rising tension between indigenous “forest guardians” and illegal loggers, prompting speculation among officials and environmentalists that the blaze may have been started deliberately.
According to Greenpeace, the fire has already consumed 45% of the 413,000-hectare (1m acre) Indigenous Territory of Arariboia, despite the efforts of 250 firefighters.
Worst affected are the 12,000 people from the Guajajara ethnic group, whose communities have been surrounded by flames. There are also fears for the approximately 80 members of the Awá-Guajá, an uncontacted tribe.
The state government has declared emergencies in the surrounding indigenous territories of the Geralda Toco Preto, Canabrava Guajajara, Governador, Krikati, Lagoa Comprida, Bacurizinho, Urucu, Juruá, Porquinhos and Canela. Local reports indicate that the Ka’apor and Alto Turiaçu people have also been affected.
“This is certainly the biggest fire we have seen in recent years,” said Gabriel Zacharias, the fire combat coordinator of Ibama (Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources).
Almost all of Maranhão’s forests have been cleared. Those that remain are on indigenous lands or in nature reserves. Loggers enter these areas illegally, cut down trees and then launder the timber for sale to the UK and other foreign markets. [more]
[Translation by Bing.]
28 October 2015 (Greenpeace Brasil) – After more than two months of fire, Araribóia Indian land, which houses the Guajajara people and a group of isolated Awá Indians-Guaja, is the stage for a drama of gigantic dimensions. The fire has consumed nearly half of the territory and has already reached some villages.
One of the biggest forest fires in an indigenous land ever recorded in Brazil is consuming one of the last remnants of the Amazonian forest of Maranhão and threatening the survival of indigenous peoples, including isolated groups. The indigenous land (TI) Araribóia, 413 thousand hectares, has had more than 45% of their territory turned into ashes, despite the incessant work of 250 men to act to contain a line of fire that had 100 kilometers long.
It is the home of 12 thousand ethnic Guajajara and about 80 Indians isolated from the Awá people-Guaja. In flight held by Greenpeace on the day October 24 on the main hotspots of TI Araribóia was unable to check the advance of the fire on the villages and dense forest areas that are located in the heart of the territory, where live the Awá Guaja, which are surrounded by flames. The forest fire has already consumed approximately of 190 thousand of 413 thousand hectares that represent you, the equivalent of about 190 thousand football fields.
Accompanied by the articulation of indigenous peoples in Brazil (Apib) and at the invitation of leaders Guajajara, the Greenpeace team was also on the ground inside the TI Araribóia and could better assess the extent of the damage produced by the fire. "It was shocking to see the gigantic dimension of destruction and realize that the Guajajara and Awá-Guaja are the main victims of this tragedy," said Danicley de Aguiar, Greenpeace Amazon campaign. "The eradication of the fire, the biggest concern is to ensure the survival of these peoples. Many plantations were destroyed and access to the game will be compromised, so the Indians can have serious difficulties to get food. After the fire is under control, the Government will need to follow closely the situation, " he said.
In the midst of strong smoke that engulfed the aircraft, Sonia Guajajara, leadership of the Apib and TI Araribóia resident, watched incredulous the fire through the window of the plane: "what will become of my people, life will not be easy, we will suffer greatly without our forest," she said. According to Sonia, the Guajajara have identified outbreaks of fire at the beginning of September and, through some Indian Brigade, informed the coordinators of the Prevfogo brigades, Ibama's arm who specializes in preventing and fighting fires in the region. "It is not acceptable that the responsible agencies, such as Funai and Ibama, didn't notice the increase of the outbreaks of fire in the Earth and have taken so long to take the necessary measures to combat the fire which spread through the villages," added Sonya.
The Indian Brigade, called "guardians", are at the forefront of the initiatives of the protection territory Guajajara. Since the beginning of the fire, they presented themselves to the organs of the State as an auxiliary force for combat, but were rejected by Ibama on the grounds that they would not have firefighting experience and were not part of the brigades of the Prevfogo program.
Loggers are being accused of spreading the fire, in retaliation for the monitoring actions carried out by the Indian territory to prevent illegal timber extraction. Along with other indigenous lands of the Maranhão, Araribóia suffers with the invasion and theft of wood in a systematic way. The lack of an effective policy of protection of indigenous lands allows this to happen and increases the risk of fires like these: the degradation caused by illegal logging activity makes Woods vulnerable to fire.
In October, the Government of Maranhão declared a state of emergency in 11 indigenous lands in the State. In addition the situation extends to Araribóia Indian lands Geralda Touch black, Campbell Guajajara, Governor, Krikati, Long Pond, Bacurizinho, Urucu, Juruá, Piglets and Kanela. According to the indigenous leaders of the Maranhão, however, there are also records of outbreaks of fire in other lands other than those cited in the Decree, as is the case of the High people's ' Ka, Turiaçu affix.
With the help of six soldiers from the Fire Department in the State of Maranhao, about 48 Guajajara Indians currently work on extinction of fires in the Centre of the TI Araribóia. "Even with all the logistics and communication difficulties, the keepers have been very effective in fighting the hotspots that threaten the Awá people-Guaja, if confirmed as an example of bravery and solidarity", says Danicley de Aguiar.
Worried about the consequences of this social and environmental tragedy, Sonia Guajajara clamors for greater integration between the State agencies responsible for extinguishing the fire on Indian land. "There is no room for failure, because these can mean the destruction of the entire forest and thus compromise the life of the Guajajara people and Awá-Guaja. We will not give up defending our forests and our brothers, "she concludes.