Bolivians blame government for not doing enough to put out fires

Latin America

Bolivians blame government for not doing enough to put out fires

The Bolivian government says wildfires have destroyed around 12,000 square kilometers of forest and grasslands. But environmentalists say the real figure is higher. Many blame the President for not doing enough.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports.

Bolivia is still burning. A team is out going from place to place making sure even the embers of the fire are fully extinguished.

It’s painstaking work to ensure there’s no chance of the fire starting again

“I think we’re starting to beat this fire, we don’t think this fire started naturally and it should be investigated,” said Runy Callau, the firefighter captain.

They work at night because it’s cooler and easier to see the flames and put them out. Much of the team is made up of volunteers like Olivia Mansilla.

“What we’re seeing is so serious!” said Mansilla. “What we’re doing to Bolivia and the Amazon is something that can’t be fixed even if we put out the fire now.”

The army has also been drafted in to help stamp out the flames and neighboring countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina have sent logistical support.

Donations of food and water are now mainly being used for volunteers and firefighters who are still tackling the remaining blazes. Outlying areas have been affected but the authorities here say that the human cost can be overcome, but the real and long-lasting impact is for the ecosystem.

Environmental groups say some 1.8 million hectares of mostly dry forest went up in flames across Bolivia. They blame President Evo Morales for incentivizing slash and burn practices to expand pasturelands for cattle.

But his government says strong winds in tinder dry conditions meant those fires got out of control.

After nearly a month of fires, firefighters are bringing the blaze under control. As far as the damage caused to flora and fauna, scientists fear the worst.