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Argentina’s Corrientes province has seen more fires than in the last 20 years, and a new record has been set

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL –  Corrientes is experiencing an environmental crisis unprecedented in its history. Last January alone, the number of hot spots reached 3436, more than double the number in the same month of 2002, when there were 1356 hot spots. With 9 million hectares, nearly 800,000 hectares have already been burned in the province, which is about 10% of the province’s land.

This was stated by agronomist Ditmar Kurtz of INTA Corrientes at a press conference analyzing the current emergency and the evolution of burned areas. Using satellite imagery and monitoring of fire hot spots through a NASA website, the institute monitors daily trends and development of both fire hot spots and burned areas.

Read also: Check out our coverage on Argentina

Although hot spots are not fire hot spots in the strict sense, they are directly related, he said. “We are in a difficult situation where our province is the epicenter of fires. So far in February, there have already been 3865 fire starts. The situation is far from over, but continues to increase, so we are waiting for the rain to subside a bit,” he described.

An interesting piece of information presented by INTA Corrientes was a comparison with the data on roads and trails and the fire outbreaks (Photo internet reproduction)

He elaborated that in a normal season, 40% of the province’s surface is covered by a more or less deep layer of water and the rest is dry land. In 2013, for example, it was 38.5% water and 61.5% dry land. He even explained that in a Niño event, this equation is reversed and 60% is covered by water, as in 1998, when the area with water was 58.2% and the dry land was 41.8%.

“We were used to that. But two years ago we had a situation with low rainfall, and now, in January, high temperatures were added.In January, less than 10% of the usual amount of precipitation for that month fell. Currently, the area covered with water in the entire province is less than 10%. This means that a large part of the places that have abundant green biomass are very dry today due to the withdrawal of water,” he said.

In this sense, he pointed out that although the most affected areas were initially the scrubland, the last study of the organization showed that the swamps and wetlands, especially in the area of the Iberá Reserve, already represent 31% of the total area burned: “More than 460,000 hectares of wetlands have been burned.”

Another interesting piece of information presented by the agency was a comparison with the data on roads and trails and the fire outbreaks. “The result was that of the 18,554 polygons that burned, only 603 were less than 100 yards from a road or dirt trail. In this way, we wanted to find out if the phenomenon was triggered, provoked or intentional,” he said.

Francisco Torres Cayman, another INTA agronomist who spoke about the equipment used and the prevention measures to fight the fires, said it was unfair to blame forestry as the culprit of the fires.

“There are more than 500,000 hectares of forest in the province, 50% of which are certified, with everything that forest certification means in terms of traceability and sustainable management. That should be a sign that things are being done well. I don’t think the tree is the reason, it has nothing to do with it, it’s more of a climatic issue. There is always an argument about environment and production. We need to stop talking about it and start talking about sustainable production. There are some producers who do not do it well, but there are many others who are trying to produce in an environmentally friendly way,” he said.

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