Amazon rainforest fires – Everything you need to know

Amazon rainforest fires upsc essay notes

From Current Affairs Notes for UPSC » Editorials & In-depths » This topic

Forest fire as a disaster is gaining prominence in recent years. Many international forums like G7 are undertaking several measures to address this crisis. The current crisis of the Amazon forest fire is only the tip of the iceberg. Now the Arctic region is also dealing with a similar problem in the form of a peat fire. It is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. As of this year, Arctic has emitted 121 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. With Europe suffering from record-breaking heatwave (a favorable condition for forest fire) it is evident that the phenomenon of forest fire is expanding its reach.

Amazon Forest Fire mindmap upsc

This topic of “Amazon rainforest fires – Everything you need to know” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

What is a forest fire?

  • Forest fire is the uncontrolled fire that destroys large parts of the forest.
  • Forests are highly vulnerable to this phenomenon.
  • It is a disaster that involves widespread destruction of forest resources and wildlife.
  • It is prevalent mostly in the environment where there are very high temperature, low humidity, and high-speed winds.

What are the causes of the forest fire?

  • Forest fires are mostly manmade.
  • However, sometimes it occurs naturally due to lightning and thunderstorms.
  • Manmade wildfire in the forests is mainly caused due to campfires, smoke buds that are not properly extinguished, burning of debris, arson, and accidents in the forest areas.
  • Large and intense forest fires may create resilient convection currents that blow hot embers to the other parts of the terrain which in turn spreads the wildfire to the wider area of the forest.

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What caused the current forest fires in Amazon?

Human intervention: According to INPE (Brazil’s space research centre), 99% of the Amazon wildfire is caused due to human intervention either accidentally or on purpose. It also estimated that this year has seen an 80% increase in the forest fire in the Amazon compared to the last year.

Cattle ranchers & Loggers: The current Amazon wildfire is said to have been caused by the cattle ranchers and the loggers who are currently undertaking measures to clear the forest areas and utilize it for the economic benefits.


  • Amazon is mostly characterized by humid weather condition.
  • However, between July and August, it too is a subject of the dry season.
  • This year’s Amazon wildfire coincides with the dry season – a condition favourable for clearing the forest areas.
  • This makes it evident that the farmers wait for the dry season to clear out the forest areas for agricultural purposes.
  • The Brazilian farmers had even organized a “fire day” along the highway BR-163.

Budget cuts: Many blame the budget cut for IBAMA – Brazil’s environmental agency by 24% in April this year by the Brazilian government. These budget cuts have reduced IBAMA’s capacity to monitor and enforce fines on those who illegally light fires in the Amazon rainforest.

Why does Amazon matter to the world?

Amazon rainforest – the land of rich biodiversity:

  • Stretching across 6.7 million square km of landmass, Amazon is the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world.
  • It is twice the size of India and is the home for at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity.
  • It is rich with numerous mammals, amphibians, reptiles and many other species of flora and fauna.
  • As the forest burns, Amazon’s fragile and complex ecological processes are gradually being undone.

Amazon rainforest – the lungs of the earth:

  • It is evident that the trees play a crucial role in reducing the pollutant levels in the atmosphere.
  • For the past century, humans have emitted a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere leading to catastrophic consequences like climate change and global warming.
  • Amazon rainforest helps in filtering and reprocessing in order to reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Amazon rainforest and climate change:

  • Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in controlling the local and regional climate change.
  • Amazon exchanges a large amount of energy and water with the atmosphere.
  • Therefore it influences the global climate and the circulation of ocean currents.

Potential of Amazon in the health sector:

  • It is estimated that only less than half of 1% of the flowering species of the Amazon have been studied for the medical potential.
  • There still remains numerous undiscovered species of flora and fauna.
  • With the reduction of the forest cover, the potential of this forest remains undiscovered.

What will happen if the issue is not addressed?

Cannot mitigate climate change:

  • Amazon’s blazing wildfire has been raging for three weeks now.
  • It this issue is not addressed soon, the world will lose a vital carbon sink.
  • This will not only affect South America but also the world at large.
  • Many scientists state that it is essential to keep within 5°C of global warming to prevent the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Conservation of Amazon rainforest helps maintain the atmospheric temperature and prevent climate change.
  • The trees of the Amazon forest release water vapour which is called the flying rivers. Flying rivers are the result of evaporation and transpiration. It contributes highly to the circulation of water and weather patterns of the world.

Water scarcity:

  • According to the UN, about 70% of the atmospheric moisture is generated from plants.
  • If the Amazon rainforest is not saved, it will intensify the problem of water scarcity across the world.

Loss of biodiversity:

  • Some models estimate that by 2050, there will be a rise in the temperature of the Amazon rainforest by 2° to 3°C.
  • As a consequence, there will be a decrease in the rainfall and destruction of wildlife.
  • This coupled with man-made deforestation and other harmful human activities may turn Amazon into a dry Savannah.

What are the measures taken by the world at large?

Germany and Norway:

  • Germany and Norway had ceased the funds to programmes that aim to prevent deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
  • Both the countries had accused the Brazilian government of not taking the necessary steps to contain the forest fire.

G7 Countries:

  • The G7 countries have pledged to donate $20 million to aid the Amazon countries to fight the wildfire.
  • These countries have also agreed to launch a long-term global initiative to protect the Amazon rainforest.
  • This plan would involve the reduction of the deforestation rate and promotion of afforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
  • The environmentalists blamed the policies of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s policies for the worsening situation of the wildfire in Amazon.
  • Both France and Ireland have threatened to block the EU trade deal with Brazil and three other Latin American countries if President Bolsonaro doesn’t change his stance.
  • The Brazilian president countered this threat by rejecting the G7 countries’ offer of $20 million assistance.
  • However, despite these political tensions, many experts believe that funding from G7 is not sufficient to solve the immediate crisis.

Way Forward:

  • It is not only Brazil that is facing alarming forest fires.
  • Nine other sovereign nations are also facing the catastrophic inferno in the Amazon.
  • Paraguay and Bolivia – Brazil’s neighbours are currently struggling to contain the devastating forest fires.
  • In 2016, the Brazilian government pledged to restore 12 hectares of the deforested land. Under the current policies of the Brazilian government, it seems to have become mere rhetoric.
  • The international community must put aside their differences and come together to solve the problem of raging fire in the Amazon.
  • If the steps are not taken immediately, the future generation will suffer due to the overwhelming impacts of climate change and global warming.

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