Brazil ambassador to Kuwait reassures Amazon rainforest fire to be extinguished by next month

Brazilian agriculture and livestock delegation due in Kuwait in two weeks

KUWAIT: Brazilian Ambassador to Kuwait Norton de Andrade Rapesta speaks during a press conference yesterday. — Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

KUWAIT: The Amazon rainforest has been on fire for several weeks now with extensive damage dealt to its rich biodiversity. But according to Brazilian Ambassador to Kuwait Norton de Andrade Rapesta, people should not be overstressed as Brazil has been battling several forest fires almost every year. “There are several wild fires that happen around the world every year,” Ambassador Rapesta told a press conference held at the Brazilian embassy in Kuwait yesterday, downplaying the huge level of concern that the Amazon rainforest fires have garnered worldwide. “Amazon fires have been happening almost every year, and we know how to handle them,” the ambassador proclaimed. “I am almost sure that by next month, the fire currently masticating the Amazon rainforest will be out, mainly because the summer and the dryness will officially end by then.”

“I know how important the rainforest is to the world, and so news that the fires are started deliberately by some people to serve personal interests are not accurate,” Ambassador Rapesta said. “Deforestation in the area has been ongoing not because of us, but because trees are being cut for their byproducts. We are not even allowed to use mahogany trees or good trees back in Brazil. But those good trees are smuggled out of the Amazon by unscrupulous individuals,” he said. The Amazon region is covered by the rainforest and is shared by eight other countries, the envoy noted. “Brazil is located exactly on the equator and the line that divides the globe goes through countries with rainforests,” Ambassador Rapesta said. “As global warming increases, the possibility of more dryness annually could actually threaten the large portions of rainforests.”

The period between July, August and September is the drought season in Brazil, so fires normally ignites then, according to Ambassador Rapesta. “The fire were not in the rainforest part, but in the areas where there are savannahs,” he explained. “The rainforest areas are jungles with huge trees as high as 30-40 feet, and with high humidity on almost 24/7 basis. We call it ‘flying rivers’, so how can the areas with too much humidity be burned? This proves that the fires are mostly concentrated in areas with savannahs and small trees.”

Brazil is one of the countries with the largest extent of protected areas covering 12 percent of the continental protected areas worldwide, Ambassador Rapesta said. As per native vegetation in Brazil, it amounts to 66.3 percent of territory; 25 percent as native vegetation, 13.8 percent to the indigenous estates, 10.4 percent to conservation units, and 16.5 percent still vacant and unregistered lands. Out of remaining 30 percent, less than third is dedicated to farming and crops. The envoy admitted that combatting illegal practices in the area is the main challenge. “Seventy percent of deforestation takes place outside rural estate, mostly in public vacant areas, and mostly are from logging theft or land grabbing activities,” he told reporters.

There are criticisms of where the Amazon Funds are going since it receives billions of dollars from other countries. According to records, since its creation in 2018, the Amazon Fund has received $1.3 billion in grants from the government of Norway and Germany and from Petrobras. Regrettably though, almost 40 percent of it have been allocated to NGO projects which have not used them adequately or with enough transparency. Ambassador Rapesta said that the Amazon Funds normally goes to NGO’s, but most of the funds go to paying large salaries of people who are involved in them. “The truth is that this mechanism has been proven ineffective in controlling deforestation,” he said. “The changes by the Brazilian government when it comes to the Amazon Fund are not intended to do away with it, but rather to make it more effective.”

Meanwhile, the envoy said that a delegation from Brazil’s Agriculture and Livestock Ministry will pay a visit to Kuwait on September 17-19 to talk about agreements, and meet senior Kuwaiti government officials. The delegation will see the possibility of increasing business and trade opportunities and production of agri-business, the envoy revealed.

By Ben Garcia