Three countries prepare to fight forest fires in Bolivia
La Prensa, La Paz, 26 de Aug, 2010: Chile, Argentina, and Brazil are preparing to send firefighters and equipment to fight forest fires that have already affected over 35.000 hectares in Bolivia.
The Consul General of Chile confirmed in La Paz that a Conaf (Coordinadora Nacional Forestal) mission will arrive today from Chile to do an on-the-ground study of the magnitude of the fires which have already devoured 2.6 million hectares, and to define the type of help Chile will send for this emergency.
This exploratory mission, which includes three experts, was ordered by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, after having conversed with his peer, Evo Morales.
The mission will study the most convenient ways to face the over 35,000 fires that are burning in various points of Bolivia.
Frederico Cézar de Araujo, Ambassador of Brazil, stated yesterday that his country is willing to cooperate; however, it is waiting for Bolivia to specify exactly what it requires in terms of help to stamp out the forest fires. “We received a request for cooperation, but it doesn’t specify how many (tanker aircraft) or other equipment is needed”.
He added that once his government knows what type of help is needed, it will be provided immediately.
The Government of Argentina, by way of its Embassy, also announced it will deploy “blue helmet” troops who are experts in forest fires to help evaluate and fight the fires.
According to the Forest and Land Inspection and Social Control Authority (ABT) of Bolivia, there are 34,300 fires burning in 109 of Bolivia’s 337 counties. Fully 18,217 of these are in Santa Cruz where 1,071,638 hectares have been burned. The municipalities that have been most affected are San Ignacio de Velasco, with 1875 fires; San Matías, with 1208 fires; and San Rafael with 817 fires.
According to the ANF, there are 14,826 fires in Beni, which have affected 913,246 hectares in the municipalities of Santa Ana del Yacuma, with 500 fires; Exaltación, with 440 fires; and Santa Rosa, with 267 fires.
In La Paz 113 fires have damaged 8157 hectares. In Ixiamas, Guanay and Sorata 91, 5, and 4 fires have burned, respectively.
There are currently 49 fires in Cochabamba and Pando; 42 in Tarija; 24 in Chuquisaca; 3 in Oruro; and 2 in Potosí.
In addition to affecting public health, announcements of the effect on food products are forthcoming. Baudouin Duquesne, representative of the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) stated the fires and drought will have an impact on the price of some food products, such as wheat.
A concerned Duquesne reminded that a similar situation was seen in Russian, where almost all wheat produced was destroyed.
Due to the effects of the fires, Vice President Álvaro García Linera reported that despite the fact that the government is taking actions to mitigate the fires, “it is never enough”. However, the Vice Ministry of Civil Defense has sent provisions to the victims.
In addition, he stated that steps are being taken to ensure that as of next year the country will have a tanker aircraft and a helicopter, both equipped to fight forest fires.
There are 34,300 fires burning in the country, and six major forest fires affecting three of Bolivia’s departments (states).
Santa Cruz is the most affected with 18,217 fires, according to the ABT.
The municipalities of Ixiamas, Guanay and Sorata are the most affected areas in the department of La Paz.