La Paz, Dec 2 (EFE). – More than 3.3 million hectares of forested areas, bushes and dry pastures were burned in the 160 forest fires recorded in Bolivia in 2023, Defense Minister Edmundo Novillo reported Saturday.
Novillo appeared before the media in the central city of Cochabamba to report on the damage caused by the fires in the country and the tasks carried out by the authorities, in addition to the international aid received to combat the fire.
“Up to November of this year, 3,372,369.46 hectares have burned,” said the Minister, explaining that “it is considered that the fires have ended” since the heat sources are no longer reported and the rainy season has begun in the country.
Of the damaged surface, 1.1 million hectares were “tree cover” and 2.2 million were scrubland and dry pastures, with the greatest impact in the Amazon region of Beni, where 1.9 million hectares were burned.
The historical data presented by the authority confirms that the year with the greatest damage was 2019, with 5,305,512 hectares burned, while in 2022 the damaged area was 4,466,540 hectares.
The figures are obtained through satellite control by the Forest Information and Monitoring System (SIMB), “which primarily verifies the burned areas” on a daily basis and also provides annual reports, the minister explained.
The preliminary number of families affected by the fires is 18,194, and 133 homes have been reported affected or destroyed by the fire.
The country reported 160 fires between June and November throughout the country, with damage particularly severe in seven of Bolivia’s nine regions, one of which, Beni, was declared a “departmental disaster”.
The government distributed 225.75 tons of humanitarian aid, which required an investment of almost 2 million Bolivianos (more than 285,000 dollars).
Novillo also thanked Chile for sending 2.77 tons of humanitarian aid, as well as the cooperation of Venezuelan and French firefighters who arrived in the country to fight the fires.
The minister highlighted the deployment of 5,605 Bolivian forest firefighters to fight the fires, as well as the mobilization of 56 military units.
There were also 98 land, air and river reconnaissance and exploration operations, and 991 water dumping operations to extinguish the fires.
The authorities have opened 19 criminal cases and there are five people in custody accused of setting fires, Novillo said.
According to the minister, the government is now focusing on the “post-fire phase” for the “reconstruction and reforestation” of the affected areas and the care of the affected families.
The fires have been blamed in many cases on “chaqueos,” or controlled burns practiced in agricultural areas to prepare land for planting or grazing.
Indigenous people, environmentalists and opposition politicians have repeatedly asked the government of Luis Arce to repeal the regulations that have allowed ‘chaqueos’ for several years. EFE