AFP reports via El Deber:
The flames have consumed more than 471,000 hectares in the department of Santa Cruz. Environmentalists warn of the serious risk to the variety of ecosystems that coexist in this natural reserve.
Almost 500,000 hectares of the Chiquitano Forest were lost in the forest fire that still affects the reserve. Photo: APG
Environmental organizations on Tuesday warned of damage to more than 500 species of fauna, some endemic, after the first images of animals killed by the burning of the voracious fires that have consumed half a million hectares of forest, crops and grasslands in the east of Bolivia.
“Currently, almost half a million hectares of the Chiquitano Dry Forest would have been lost, unique in the world made up of a variety of ecosystems, with a great diversity of species of fauna and flora and an archaeological wealth of high cultural value,” they said in a statement the Platform for Environment and Life.
A final official government report mentions that the flames have consumed more than 471,000 hectares in the department of Santa Cruz, because of the burning of crop fields, an ancestral practice that in Bolivia is called “chaqueo,” with the belief that the ash improves the quality of the land for planting.
One of the most affected places is the Chiquitano Dry Forest, an endemic biodiversity complex, where there is also the Tucavaca Nature Reserve, where there are 554 different species of animals, distributed in 69 species of mammals, 221 birds, 54 reptiles, 50 species of amphibians and 160 fish.
In Tucavaca there are “35 endemic (fauna) species and more than 55 endemic plants that only exist in this place worldwide,” said environmentalist Eliana Torrico.
“It is incredible the diversity there is, it is already impacted, the damages caused so far are irreversible, we have seen in the social networks photos and videos of hundreds of calcined animals, dead, tatús (armadillos), jochis (bales), deer, turtles, are hundreds of animals that have not had where to escape,” she said.
The central government, the Santa Cruz governorate and municipalities in the area work to control the fire. Some of the forest fires have spread to the border with Paraguay.
Environmentalists have blamed the responsibility on President Evo Morales for the approval of laws that give green light to the burning of pastures for planting to expand the agricultural frontier, mainly soy.
Indeed, a supreme decree of July 10 authorizes the clearance for agricultural activities in the departments of Santa Cruz and Beni. The rule, issued by the Executive, added to a 2016 law passed by the Congress of an official majority that allows the burning of up to 20 hectares of grassland for small properties and community properties.
The air quality in Chiquitania is “extremely bad”
The fires that have been generated in Chiquitania and especially in the municipality of Roboré, have resulted in an environmental emergency that has also affected the air quality in this area.
The latest report, given on Tuesday morning, indicates indices of concentration of particulate matter that exceeds 310 micrograms per cubic meter due to smoke.
“The air quality index is extremely bad,” said Diego Rojas, responsible for Municipal Environmental Quality Monitoring.